• Book Reviews

    Provenance by Lanley Salisbury & Aly Sujo

    And now for something completely different! This is a madcap, true story about a con artist who infiltrated the Tate Museum so he could sell his forged masters to the art world. Let’s start with the title. An artwork’s provenance is the uninterrupted paper trail that traces it back to its original painter. It’s what justifies the crazy money you’re paying because you absolutely have to have the painting on your wall. The brilliance and couldn’t-give-a-shitness of the con artist, John Drewe, is gobsmacking. He had a sociopath’s nose for human weakness. Vulnerabilities, egos, or just plain need for money, he did what it took to pull his marks into his web…

  • Book Reviews

    RED NOTICE by Bill Browder

    If you want to get to grips with Russia’s dark underbelly, read this. It’s part spy thriller, part memoir, part Hollywood in its craziness. Half the time, I couldn’t believe what was going on. But that’s just it – it’s all fact. Back in the late 1990s, author Bill Browder was a maverick American financier in post cold-war Russia who shamelessly bought up shares in catastrophically undervalued companies to make gazillions for himself and his clients. Along the way, he helped expose a $230 million state-sanctioned scam and is kicked out of Russia. Next thing, a “red notice” is served by Russia to Interpol to extradite Browder so he can…

  • Book Reviews

    CHILDREN OF SUGARCANE by Joanne Joseph

    This isn’t a review. It’s more of a PSA for anyone put off reading this outstanding book because so many of its (fantastic) reviews contain words like brutal, rape, beatings, abuse, cruelty, murders, atrocities. I was dead keen to learn about the indenture system on the KwaZula-Natal sugar plantations in South Africa back in the late 19th century but couldn’t stomach a harrowing read. Despite my reservations, I did eventually buy the book but struggled to enjoy it because I spent most of the read steeling myself against what awful event might appear in the next paragraph, page or chapter. Not fun. So, this is to tell you that, yes,…

  • Book Reviews

    The First Safari: Searching for François Levaillant by Ian Glenn

    Are you a birder? Do you love the bush? Are you curious about South Africa in the 1700s? Did you know a Frenchman gave the bokmakierie its name? Maybe you just love this cover? A yes to any of those and you HAVE to read this book. Writer Ian Glenn (prof at University of Cape Town, South Africa) spent a huge amount of time in the dusty dungeons of Parisian museums during his 25-year mission to get to know explorer and birder François Levaillant. So who the heck was Levaillant? He was born in 1753 in Dutch Guiana to French parents, ended up in the Cape when he was 27, and wrote about everything…

  • Book Reviews

    The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

    David Baptiste is a Rasta fisherman chilling on his pirogue, joint between his lips, twanging away on his guitar, when a mermaid pops up out of the sea. She’s no pale, glossy-haired Disney siren. Aycayia is a mighty, thousand-year-old woman with an ancient soul, barnacled-covered dreads, spikes on her back, tattoos on her torso and hands frilled with webbing. And her tail! Metres of muscled silver. We learn that she once belonged to the indigenous Taino people and was cursed by jealous women of her tribe to be a mermaid forever. David plays his guitar for her. Aycayia lolls about in the waves and sings for him. Music is their…

  • Book Reviews


    This book is about the psychological trauma of the early apartheid days as experienced by a gentle, white civil servant required to enforce racist laws. George Jameson loves his fellow black South Africans, speaks their languages fluently, and deeply admires their culture – not in a paternalistic or colonial way, as was so common back then, but with knowledge and respect. He was a Native Commissioner when the National Party came to power in 1948 and his fear that black people would soon be treated as “unpersons” is so painful for him that it’s almost impossible to handle. The trauma of being forced to implement degrading laws pushes him into…

  • Book Reviews

    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

    I knew a lot about Nazi crimes in World War II but little-to-nothing about Japanese atrocities (besides Pearl Harbour). This book was a shocking eye opener. Louie Zamperini was a wild child who grew into an even wilder teenager. Until his brother Pete persuaded him to try running and an Olympic star was born. Except WWII scuppered the 1940 games and Louie was drafted as bombardier. Throw in a plane crash, 47 days lost at sea, shark attacks, then land at last– which turned out to be enemy land and resulted in two years in a POW camp run by psychopathic Japanese barbarians. (Sadistic abuse/ execution of prisoners was built…

  • Book Reviews

    LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus

    Say hello to Elizabeth Zott – scientist, atheist, brain box, feminist, and single mum to a precocious kid and a dog called Six-Thirty. (The dog has a key supporting role, complete with hilarious doggie dialogue.) Set in the 1950s, Bonnie Garmus’s quirky, smart, acerbic debut gave me an unputdownable readfest. One chapter in and you’ll be hooked. (The doggie magic-realism is an absolute bonus!) In short, Elizabeth Zott, 30, is kicked out of the male-dominated science world and takes on a cooking-show gig to provide for her daughter… then ends up revolutionising the lives of millions of women stuck in their male-determined roles as mums, secretaries (and research lab assistants).…

  • On writing

    An Elephant in my Kitchen – why me?

    Do you want to write the sequel to The Elephant Whisperer? A friend of my brother’s knew Françoise Malby-Anthony, widow of the book’s author, was looking for a writer but I didn’t take the news seriously. Yes, I was writing full time. Yes, I dreamed of The Big Break. Just not this big. For those who don’t know, The Elephant Whisperer is the true story of a rogue herd of elephants saved from being shot by Lawrence Anthony and his French wife, Françoise. The book describes the magnificent, spiritual relationship between Lawrence and the herd. What had happened to the herd after Lawrence died? Like readers everywhere I wondered what…

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    Oh no, not scrabble!

    I write, therefore I love Scrabble. Wrong. I hate Scrabble. I love words for their content, not their structure. A scrabbler sees gambol as: 4 consonants, 2 vowels, total value 15. But gambol is so much more! There’s bounce in the word, there’s air, exclamation marks, kitten-play, spring, wheat fields!