More great hol­i­day reads

Spies, fraud, flow­ers and a lit­tle Trol­lope. Es­capist, in­spir­ing and en­light­en­ing reads to re­lax with on sum­mer days, se­lected

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Lifestyle Books - by Pa­tri­cia McCracken.

1 THE LOST FLOW­ERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ring­land (Pan, R180)

Alice has grown up on the coast of North­ern Aus­tralia, shar­ing her mother’s love for its veg­e­ta­tion and her fa­ther’s ex­cite­ment in the el­e­ments, un­til a dev­as­tat­ing fire strikes.

Re­cov­er­ing from her in­juries, Alice finds her­self kilo­me­tres away be­ing cared for by a pre­vi­ously un­known rel­a­tive on a flower farm. The only in­ter­est they ap­par­ently have in com­mon is adapt­ing the tra­di­tional Vic­to­rian lan­guage of flow­ers to Aus­tralian indige­nous species. It’s a use­ful step­ping stone to a job as a field ranger at a na­ture re­serve, but Alice is doomed to re­peat the past un­til she learns from it.

A first novel writ­ten from the heart by an Aus­tralian now liv­ing in Manch­ester, Eng­land.

2 THE OTHER WOMAN by Daniel Silva ( HarperCollins, R290)

Very few peo­ple are what they seem in Silva’s lat­est spy thriller. So it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that even the ti­tle sounds as if the novel is about a love tri­an­gle straight out of a soapie. It most def­i­nitely is not, how­ever.

In­stead, it’s about clashes of loy­alty and be­trayal on a global scale as the Is­raelis head off against the Rus­sians and spar with the Amer­i­cans. The British, French, Aus­tri­ans and Swiss are also in­volved and in­ter­fer­ing.

De­spite a fine-art sting and a drugs deal along the way, spies deal in peo­ple and in­for­ma­tion, so the ac­tion ul­ti­mately un­masks a plot dat­ing back to be­fore British spy Kim Philby de­fected to Rus­sia in 1963. It could mean that a Rus­sian agent is head­ing at least one of the Western spy agen­cies… In­tri­cate plot­ting with plenty of clever twists make The Other Woman par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to put down.

3 THE HOUSE OF UN­EX­PECTED SIS­TERS by Alexan­der McCall Smith (Aba­cus, R185)

An em­ployee claim­ing un­fair dis­missal brings back un­ex­pected links to the past for Pre­cious Ramotswe and her as­sis­tant, Grace Makutsi, at the

No. 1 Ladies’ De­tec­tive Agency in Gabarone.

Pre­cious, in par­tic­u­lar, is made to ques­tion her youth­ful hero wor­ship in a skil­fully con­structed plot that will sat­isfy ex­ist­ing fans and win new ones.

4 AN UN­SUIT­ABLE MATCH by Joanna Trol­lope (Pan, R175)

Money, and how we value, spend or in­herit it, is the root of some of the fiercest fam­ily feuds. Rose, who lives in Lon­don, and her transat­lantic fiancé, Tyler, sud­denly find that it is like a fi­nan­cial Ber­lin Wall loom­ing over their prospec­tive mar­riage.

The gen­er­a­tional ta­bles are turned as their adult sons and daugh­ters form a wary part­ner­ship. They even take over the par­ent­ing role, fear­ing their el­ders might be too giddy with ro­mance to re­alise mar­ry­ing later in life could bring the con­cept of ‘for richer, for poorer’ into harsh re­lief.

Clev­erly ob­served and wit­tily writ­ten.

5 MOON SIS­TER by Lucinda Ri­ley (Macmil­lan, R295)

Ri­ley’s Seven Sis­ters saga deals with a group of young women, all from very dif­fer­ent back­grounds, each adopted as a child by a mys­te­ri­ous mil­lion­aire, and named af­ter one of the stars in the con­stel­la­tion of the Seven Sis­ters.

Each novel fo­cuses on a dif­fer­ent sis­ter; Moon Sis­ter finds an­i­mal whis­perer Tiggy work­ing her magic on a High­land es­tate in Scot­land, try­ing to help con­serve and prop­a­gate Scot­tish wild cats.

Tiggy then takes her­self off to south­ern Spain to ex­plore her Gypsy her­itage and dis­cover whether it con­trib­uted to these skills.

Rang­ing through so­cial and rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­tory such as the High­land clear­ances and the Span­ish Civil War to fla­menco and herbal heal­ing, Ri­ley jug­gles mul­ti­ple sce­nar­ios with­out miss­ing a beat and keeps the reader in­trigued through­out.

6 MATILDA by Roald Dahl (Puf­fin, R305)

Feisty Matilda Worm­wood sur­vived re­sent­ful par­ents and a bul­ly­ing head­mistress in hi­lar­i­ous and in­spir­ing ways, be­com­ing one of the world’s favourite char­ac­ters from the late Roald Dahl.

The book was pub­lished in 1988 and within less than a decade, it had also be­come a hit movie. It has now been reis­sued with new cel­e­bra­tory jack­ets that cap­ture Matilda’s pos­i­tive de­fi­ance and cast her as a high achiever who can choose any role for her­self in life.

The range of three jack­ets cho­sen for the spe­cial col­lectable 30th an­niver­sary edi­tion were all cre­ated by orig­i­nal Dahl il­lus­tra­tor Quentin Blake, and show Matilda as an as­tro­physi­cist, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the British Li­brary, and a world trav­eller.

Here is an ex­cel­lent ex­cuse to in­tro­duce Matilda and her cre­atively spir­ited ways to a new gen­er­a­tion of read­ers.

7 PLUS ONE by Vanessa Raphaely (Macmil­lan, R265)

Raphaely’s glitzy but dark first novel is set in the world where glossy mag­a­zines in­ter­sect with celebri­ty­packed events. Deputy mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Lisa finds her­self in­vited, along with an ac­tress she be­friended and who is des­per­ate for the big time, to a week­end of par­ty­ing on a bil­lion­aire’s yacht.

Ev­ery­thing is pre­dictably he­do­nis­tic un­til some­one drowns. Years later, the ques­tion of “Did he fall or was he pushed?” comes back to haunt every­one present.

Lisa finds her­self strug­gling to stay out of jail, ques­tion­ing sin­cer­ity and look­ing for the true cul­prit. Pin-sharp char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion makes this an es­pe­cially in­volv­ing read.

9 STEINHEIST by Rob Rose ( Tafel­berg, R295)

The story of the vast fraud per­pe­trated on in­vestors by Markus Jooste and his Stein­hoff co­horts still has that ‘you couldn’t make it up’ qual­ity that had pro­fes­sion­als and ama­teurs alike gob­s­macked.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist Rose had an ear­lier run-in with Jooste in 2011 when he probed Jooste’s tax ar­rears that ran into hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands. When news of the Stein­hoff crash hit, Rose

led the in­ves­tiga­tive team for the Fi­nan­cial Mail, which he now ed­its. He pumped con­tacts for in­for­ma­tion and dug deep be­hind the scenes in well-hid­den doc­u­ments, syn­the­sis­ing of­ten highly di­verse threads into a flu­ent and rivet­ing nar­ra­tive of cor­po­rate malfea­sance.

Trag­i­cally for many in­vestors, this is not a fic­tional movie script.

9 ‘MAD MIKE’ HOARE: THE LEG­END by Chris Hoare (PIP, R395)

When Chris Hoare was a child, his mother told him, “Your fa­ther is pe­cu­liar, but given his child­hood, it’s a mir­a­cle he’s not even more pe­cu­liar.”

A leg­endary, strong­minded and strong-willed sol­dier, mer­ce­nary and ad­ven­turer, ‘Mad Mike’ was a prod­uct of his time, unique cir­cum­stances and a con­ti­nent un­der­go­ing cathar­tic change, throw­ing up strong per­son­al­i­ties sup­port­ing ei­ther the old order or the new.

A son writ­ing about a fa­mous fa­ther can tend to walk ei­ther a path of re­sent­ment or one of ado­ra­tion. Al­though there is an un­der­ly­ing sense of re­spect for his fa­ther, Chris Hoare, to his credit, does nei­ther, helped along by his largely nar­ra­tive ap­proach that doesn’t ven­ture too much into judge­ment or anachro­nis­tic per­spec­tives.

This is not the first bi­og­ra­phy, and Mike Hoare has writ­ten his own mem­oirs. But ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare: the Leg­end will be­come a source doc­u­ment for fu­ture mil­i­tary his­to­ri­ans who will ben­e­fit from Chris Hoare’s pro­fes­sional ap­proach in in­clud­ing the ref­er­enc­ing and in­dex of­ten lack­ing from bi­ogra­phies.

10 IL­LU­MI­NAT­ING LIVES

edited by Vi­vian Bick­ford-Smith & Bill Nas­son (Pen­guin, R280)

His­to­ri­ans Bick­ford-Smith and Nas­son draw in a broadly se­lected group of tal­ented writ­ers to tackle the de­cep­tively sim­ple task of writ­ing short bi­ogra­phies of some bet­ter and lesser­known South Africans. They range from Strug­gle hero­ine Lil­ian Ngoyi and the late Danie Craven to Ty­hini Robert Qengwa, a prize-win­ning ath­lete in the 1950s whose ca­reer was de­railed by apartheid. Art­ful, ques­tion­ing and thought­pro­vok­ing, these vi­gnettes make a tasty smor­gas­bord for the cu­ri­ous reader.

11 SPELL­ING MADE FUN by Mart Meij ( Best Books, R100)

Spell­ing and phon­ics be­come more of a game, thanks to Meij’s lively treat­ment in a colour­ful se­ries of work­sheets, with each vol­ume tar­geted by grade, cur­rently from grades 1 to 3.

These are great-value tools from an early child­hood devel­op­ment ex­pert for re­vi­sion be­fore go­ing back to school, as well as for sup­port dur­ing the new school year. 12 THE GUPTAS ATE MY HOME­WORK! by Stephen Fran­cis & Rico (Ja­cana, R175) The mine of in­ge­niously do­mes­ti­cated satire that is Madam & Eve has been run­ning for a quar­ter of a cen­tury and seems to yield more riches all the time.

Look­ing back at last year’s events through this justly cel­e­brated lens will have you shak­ing your head and laugh­ing out loud. • Farmer’s Weekly’s book re­viewer, Pa­tri­cia McCracken, is a fea­tures and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist.

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