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OSF-SA Post Budget Discussion in association with the Book Lounge and the Daily Maverick

Thursday, February 27th 2014 at 8:30 AM


February 2014

Tuesday, February 25th 2014 at 3:21 PM


Sedition by Katharine Grant

 Motherless Alathea Sawneyford, her charms grown disturbing as she rebels against her father, has made the city’s streets her own, while Annie Cantabile is constrained, by her own disfigurement and her father, to his pianoforte workshop under the shadow of Tyburn gibbet. One afternoon the dusty workshop receives a visitor. A man, representing an unscrupulous band of City speculators, Alathea’s father among them, requires a pianoforte and its charming teacher to find titled husbands for all their daughters: sisters Evelina and Marianne; stolid Harriet and pale, pining Georgiana. It seems an innocent enough plan but these are subversive times and perhaps even a drawing-room piano lesson isn’t exactly what it seems. All of which will suit Alathea perfectly.

Fierce and bawdy, uproarious and exquisite, Sedition takes its plot at a racing gallop: bold, beautiful and captivating, it is a narrative masterpiece.

You will be seduced as surely as Katie Grant’s young ladies in this masterpiece of salacious wit. THIS is one of those precious novels. The kind that bookworms burrow inside to devour with relish from cover to cover. The kind you’ll secrete behind all the other books on your shelves in case friends steal it and somehow “forget” to give it back. The kind from which you’ll read chosen snippets to your offspring when they’re old enough. An induction into the magical unruliness of words. Not a dull or superfluous page.”               Scotland on Sunday

Packed with colourful characters…this is an original, winningly imagined tale.”   Daily Mail

A witty, subversive story of sexual politics.”                        Sunday Times

Original and dark … [Grant] writes with wit, verve and not a little mischief.”       The Times

In its fairly irresistible combination of transgressive sex and a richly layered evocation of history, Sedition demands comparison with Sarah Waters’ untouchably brilliant novels … a properly subversive and quite unforgettable novel.”             Guardian

Barracuda by Chris Tsiolkas

He loses everything. In front of everyone. Where can he go from here?

Daniel Kelly, a talented young swimmer, has one chance to escape his working-class upbringing. His astonishing ability in the pool should drive him to fame and fortune, as well as his revenge on the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship. Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of his dream. But when he melts down at his first big international championship and comes only fifth, he begins to destroy everything he has fought for and turn on everyone around him.

Tender and savage, Barracuda is a novel about dreams and disillusionment, friendship and family. As Daniel Kelly loses everything, he learns what it means to be a good person – and what it takes to become one.

 “Tsiolkas writes with compelling clarity about the primal stuff that drives us all: the love and hate and fear of failure… A brilliant, beautiful book. If it doesn’t make you cry, you can’t be fully alive.”                           Sunday Times

I finished Barracuda on a high: moved, elated, immersed… This is the work of a superb writer who has completely mastered his craft but lost nothing of his fiery spirit in so doing. It is a big achievement.”                        Guardian

Terrific.”        The Times

Masterful, addictive, clear-eyed storytelling about the real business of life: winning and losing.”                       Viv Groskop, Red Online

This involving and substantial tale – surprisingly tender for all its sweary shock-value – is carried swiftly along by Tsiolkas’s athletic, often lyrical prose. “                    Daily Mail

Christos Tsiolkas is in his natural element, with sentences gliding elegantly until the reader is utterly submerged in this absorbing story.”                      Metro

People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumoured lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only the tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub ‘The Dreamers’, who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price…

An absorbing, intelligent and uncompromising novel which beguiles and unnerves. The first memorable novel of 2014 is already here.”                        Independent

Told in the form of a memoir in the voice of the extremely unlikeable Perina, it is impossible to resist being drawn into the mind of this brilliant but depraved man. And to feel a little disturbed at having enjoyed such a strange but brilliantly told story. The book is packed with a symphony of complex themes made accessible by the sheer poetry of the author’s prose.”              Daily Mail

Power and its abuses are at the heart of this beautifully written debut…Striking and highly satisfying. Yanagihara’s ambitious debut is one to be lauded. “                      Guardian

Feels like a National Geographic story by way of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness… the world Yanagihara conjures up, full of dark pockets of mystery, is magical.”              The Times

Suspenseful… Thanks to Yanagihara’s rich, masterly prose, it’s hard to turn away… Yanagihara is a writer to marvel at.”                  New York Times

A standout novel, a debut as thrilling as it is disturbing… So exciting… Haunting.”                       Wall Street Journal

Dark Whispers by Joanne Macgregor

She is so still, so relaxed, so ready as she lies on the stainless steel, her breathing slow and steady, her gaze unfocused. There is just time for a small whisper, a soft encouragement of hope, before the darkness slides her entirely into his honing hands. He leans over and breathes into her ear, “I’m going to do something very special for you now. Cut it all away and make it neat. And when you wake up, you’re going to be just perfect.”

Between the anaesthesia and the awakening, are the dark whispers.

When a patient describes an experience of mental torture and sexual mutilation by a gynaecologist at the private hospital where she works, psychologist Megan Wright decides to investigate. Determined to find out the truth and stop the abuse, but bound to silence by the ethics of confidentiality, Megan must enter the dark mind of a dangerously disturbed man.

Read this thriller. It’s gripping – so shocking you won’t be able to breathe until you get to the end.”                   Mike Nicol (Payback, Killer Country, Black Heart, Of Cops and Robbers)

A chilling exploration of human vulnerability and cruelty, a terrifying and throughly entertaining read.”                       Amanda Coetzee (Flaming June, Bad Blood, Redemption Song)

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, The Girl With All The Gifts is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.

 “Original, thrilling and powerful.”                 Guardian

 “Haunting, heartbreaking.”                Vogue

 “Scary, tense and fast-paced…but with a heart-warming tenderness.”                    Marie Claire

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

 From the celebrated author of the international bestseller The Secret Life of Bees comes an extraordinary novel about two exceptional women.

Sarah Grimké is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimké is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins …

A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, The Invention of Wings evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.

The fascinating story of real-life abolitionist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimké… A splendid tribute to a pair of true heroines.”                        The Times

Wonderful – well-written, moving and engaging by turns, and always compelling.”                     Daily Mail

Unflinchingly depicts the brutality of slavery… a resonant, illuminating novel.”                Observer

A poignant tale set in America’s Deep South in the last days of slavery.”              Good Housekeeping

A searing and soaring story of two women bound together as mistress and slave… A beautifully written book about the awe-inspiring resilience of America’s enslaved people.”             USA Today


Cry Baby by Lauren Liebenberg

As he nears his fifth birthday, Sam’s curious dreams of a seemingly lost child begin to intrude with quiet insidiousness upon his waking state. As Sam’s mother, Grace, watches with growing fear the disturbing changes taking place in her charming, spirited son – the fighting at school, the bed-wetting, the hot flares of defiance – she begins to search for what lies behind his nightmares, a search that will take her deeper and deeper into the sub-strata of love and bondage, buried beneath the surface of the family and into its molten heart.

Cry Baby is a story about boyhood, about motherhood, about what binds families, the past to the present, about suffocation and deliverance. It is at once a stinging satirical slap across the face of barren suburbia and a poignant hymn to the extraordinary beauty in ordinary lives.

Clay by Melissa Harrison

Eight-year-old TC skips school to explore the city’s overgrown, forgotten corners. Sophia, seventy-eight, watches with concern as he slips past her window, through the little park she loves. She’s writing to her granddaughter, Daisy, whose privileged upbringing means she exists in a different world from TC – though the two children live less than a mile apart.

Jozef spends his days doing house clearances, his nights working in a takeaway. He can’t forget the farm he left behind in Poland, its woods and fields still a part of him, although he is a thousand miles away. When he meets TC he finds a kindred spirit: both lonely, both looking for something, both lost.

A gently-evoked urban tragedy – and the most powerful and original debut novel I’ve read for years.”              A.N. Wilson

“Clay moves to rhythms that we associate less with fiction than with the close-descriptive style of nature writers such as Robert Macfarlane … At the heart of Clay is a hymn to attentiveness, both to the natural world and to those we share it with.”                      Financial Times

Instantly beautiful in its calm and wise tone.”                     Robert Macfarlane

Fierce and tender … Country come to town with lyrical, visceral power … She evokes with rhapsodic delight the animal and plant life that still flourishes amid the concrete and tarmac.”              Independent


On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Lithe and tiny, Fan is a diver at the New China settlement of B-Mor, a worker colony long-ago known as Baltimore, her circumscribed world the temperature-controlled fish tanks that feed a contaminated continent, and Reg, the golden-skinned, simple-hearted man she loves.

Rigorously pressurised and demarcated, the dystopian America Fan serves is ruled by the professional Charter caste. While B-Mors are obedient and tranquilised by duty and the fear of chaos, the pampered, ruthless Charters inhabit idyllic, over-supplied communities behind whose gates they jostle ceaselessly for dominance. Estranged from nature, B-Mors and Charters alike shy from the spaces between, where ‘counties’ people – outcasts, free-thinkers and renegades, bandits and pedlars – forage and grub and steal and kill. One quiet day Reg is removed from the colony – whether for a nameless infraction, or because he is disease-resistant in a world where no one is C-free, it is impossible to say. Fan decides she must follow. But her departure threatens to disrupt the whole order of B-Mor society, and only savage action can hold it together.

A mesmerising narrative of courage and longing, On Such a Full Sea is an epic tale: brilliantly speculative, absolutely involving and profoundly humane.

Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more…His marvelous new book, which imagines a future after the breakdown of our own society, takes on those concerns with his customary mastery of quiet detail – and a touch of the fantastic.”                     New York Times Book Review

I’ve never been a fan of grand hyperbolic declarations in book reviews, but faced with On Such a Full Sea, I have no choice but to ask: Who is a greater novelist than Chang-rae Lee today? His new, his fifth – where have you been? – book seals this deal. A chilling, dark, unsettling ride into a dystopia in utopia’s guise, this is a novel that might divide but will no doubt conquer where it matters most.”                 Los Angeles Times

Similar to Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go…a strange, skilful performance.”   Independent

Fascinating…for all its adventure narrative, it is underpinned by a solid and shrewd reading of present-day American economics.”                       Guardian


McSweeney’s 45: Hitchcock and Bradbury Fistfight in Heaven

McSweeney’s returns to this world with a selection from Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology ‘Stories Not for the Nervous’ mixed with fantasy stories from Ray Bradbury’s ‘Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow’. In addition to these tales from the thirties, forties, and fifties are four new stories in the same vein, introductions from Dave Eggers, Bradbury, and Hitchcock, and a selection of letters on the subject of genre fiction.

Bradbury’s selections include more ‘literary’ authors you might not expect to find in such anthologies, such as Franz Kafka, John Cheever, and John Steinbeck. These stories are excellent in their own right, but it’s also rewarding to read them alongside the lesser-known authors within the genre framework.



The Sting Man: The True Story Behind the Film American Hustle by Robert W. Greene

How did a Bronx hustler nearly bring down the US government?

From hustling on the streets of the Bronx to selling bogus businesses and sham investments around the world, Mel Weinberg netted millions of dollars. So legendary were his skills that in the late 1970s he was recruited by the FBI to combat art thieves and counterfeiters. But the trail quickly led to even bigger targets. His legendary sting operation, Abscam, caught out eight corrupt congressmen and senators. The scandal shook America to the core. In The Sting Man, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert W. Greene presents not only a thrilling account of the rise of the FBI’s international con mastermind, but a vivid dissection of the underbelly of the American Dream. Can you really con an honest man?

The book is the inspiration behind the film American Hustle, directed by David O’Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) and starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams

Absorbing and hilarious… reads like good fiction.” Washington Post



Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire by Calder Walton

The winner of the 2013 Longman-History Today Book Prize is the gripping and largely untold story of the role of the intelligence services in Britain’s retreat from empire.

Against the background of the Cold War, and the looming spectre of Soviet-sponsored subversion in Britain’s dwindling colonial possessions, the imperial intelligence service MI5 played a crucial but top secret role in passing power to newly independent national states across the globe.

Mining recently declassified intelligence records, Calder Walton reveals this ‘missing link’ in Britain’s post-war history. He sheds new light on everything from violent counter-insurgencies fought by British forces in the jungles of Malaya and Kenya, to urban warfare campaigns conducted in Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified documents, as well as hitherto overlooked personal papers, this is also the first book to draw on records from the Foreign Office’s secret archive at Hanslope Park, which contains some of the darkest and most shameful secrets from the last days of Britain’s empire.

Packed with incidents straight out of a John le Carré novel, Empire of Secrets is an exhilarating read by an exciting new voice in intelligence history.

A fascinating history of intelligence and empire. Walton’s book is perfectly timed, as Britain braces for a possible public inquiry into allegedly systemic torture of prisoners in Iraq. Walton provides appalling insight into the use of torture throughout the withdrawal from empire.”                Observer

There is enough human anecdote and eccentricity in Empire of Secrets’ “high octane” narrative to please even the most satiated consumer of such subjects … a story that often left me wondering what on earth we pay these people for.”                 Michael Burleigh, Literary Review

“Walton is a very good writer. Empire of Secrets fairly rips along, summoning in places the verve of a good spy novel … It is to his credit that he has produced such a gripping, thoughtful and satisfying book on an aspect of British history still largely hidden by shadow.”                      Daily Telegraph


Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

‘…And then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.’      Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through ll the dying, she realised the truth – and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonising losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity.

Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap between Us and Them by Joshua Greene

Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us), and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern life has thrust the world’s tribes into a shared space, creating conflicts of interest and clashes of values, along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground.

 A grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Here the human brain is revealed to be like a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings, as well as a manual mode. Our point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. Our tribal emotions make us fight, sometimes with bombs, sometimes with words, and often with life-and-death stakes.

Drawing inspiration from moral philosophy and cutting-edge science, Moral Tribes shows us when to trust our instincts, when to reason, and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward.

The great challenge of Moral Tribes is this: How can we get along with Them when what they want feels so wrong? Ultimately, Greene offers a surprisingly simple set of maxims for navigating the modern moral terrain, a practical road map for solving problems and living better lives.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen

From minding your Ps and Qs to wondering why X should mark the spot, Alphabetical is a book for everyone who loves words and language. Whether it’s how letters are arranged on keyboards or Viking runes, textspeak or zip codes, this book will change the way you think about letters forever.

How on Earth did we fix upon our twenty-six letters, what do they really mean, and how did we come to write them down in the first place? Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in twenty-six vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Starting with the mysterious Phoenicians and how sounds first came to be written down, he races on to show how nonsense poems work, pins down the strange story of OK, traces our five lost letters and tackles the tyranny of spelling, among many many other things.

His heroes of the alphabet range from Edward Lear to Phyllis Pearsall (the inventor of the A-Z), and from the two scribes of Beowulf to rappers. Each chapter takes on a different subject – whether it’s codes, umlauts or the writing of dictionaries. Rosen’s enthusiasm for letters positively leaps off the page, whether it’s the story of his life told through the typewriters he’s owned or a chapter on jokes written in a string of gags and word games.

So if you ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a thirteen-letter alphabet, why X should mark the spot or became shorthand for Christmas or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry, read on . . .

“Forget party crackers – when you settle down to the turkey and trimmings this year simply make sure you have this book to hand. There’s even a chapter devoted to family friendly alphabet games: perfect for playing after the Queen’s been on. That letters can and should be fun, not just functional, is one of the main messages of this book.”                        Sunday Telegraph

Keeping It Local…

Viewpoints: The University of Cape Town and Its Treasures edited by Paul Weinberg

The University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa’s oldest university, celebrates its treasures in this glossy, gorgeous book. This venerable institution’s treasures lie in its architecture, its landscape, its students, its works of art, its archives and collections, and its famous moments, all of which are richly portrayed in color photographs and descriptive text. Rated as one of the most beautiful universities in the world, and the best university in Africa, UCT has reason to boast. The book is designed to display it at its best, at the same time as opening fresh paths of reflection on the university’s place in history and the context of its treasures.

How to Fix South Africa’s Schools by Jonathan Jansen and Molly Blank

Everybody knows that South Africa has an education crisis, despite the fact that the government spends the biggest slice of its budget on education, more than any other African country. And yet the crisis persists.

Jansen and Blank looked at South African schools that work, in spite of adverse conditions – schools in poor communities, schools with overcrowded classrooms, schools in both rural and urban environments – and have drawn out the practical strategies that make them successful.

19 short films (included on DVD) let you visit these schools and understand in the words of their principals, teachers and learners what makes them succeed. Then take look at the 10 key strategies identified and see how to implement them in other schools to effect transformation. As we have come to expect from Jansen, there are no complicated theories, no difficult to implement solutions – just lots of common sense!

Digging Deep: A History of Mining in South Africa by Jade Davenport