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