Books with South Africa as Backdrop?

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Feb 19th, 2006, 07:43 PM
  #1
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Books with South Africa as Backdrop?

I add to my enjoyment of a trip by bringing a novel which has the counrty (of my trip) as background. For example, Da Vinci Code for Paris, Falling Leaves for a trip to Shanghai, etc. Nothing heavy, just leisure reading.

I will be going to Cape Town and Kings Camp for a safari in March and would like to ask if anyone knows good leisure reading with anything on Africa as backdrop?

So far these have been suggested: The Covenant by James Michener, Number One Ladies Detective Agency (Botswana). Can you suggest? I have two weeks to look for the book.

Thanks a lot!
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Feb 20th, 2006, 03:46 AM
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Shop Wilbur Smith titles, he has written a zillion books, reasonably factual throught SA's history.

My favourites were his earlier novels set around the boer wars. When the lion feeds & the sound of thunder.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 03:50 AM
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Power of One - Bryce Courtney.

Don't go be the movie which was bad! The book gives a good overview of apartheid South Africa from the innocent eyes of a boy.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 06:20 PM
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I second the recommendation of the Power of One - a really great book, I thought. I'm thinking of re-reading Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country. I remember being really impressed with it when I read it about a gazillion years ago. any other suggestions from the Fodorites?
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Feb 20th, 2006, 09:17 PM
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Vicki,

Given that you have included a Botswana book, I would highly recommend the two following books:

Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight

and

Scribbling The Cat

each authored by Alexandra Fuller, a white Zimbabwean woman who grew up on her family's farm as the civil war occurred between the white Zim government desperately tried to retain its power.

These are definitely two of my favorite books. Not as heavy as they sound, although certainly not as light as Number One Ladies Detective Agency.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 10:29 PM
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I second the suggestion of the Wilbur Smith novels if you are interested in easy reading. The other books are perhaps a bit heavy.

For everyone who thinks that The Power of One is a good book I strongly suggest that you read A Dry White Season by Andre P Brink. It also deals with the the concept of the power of one (what difference can one person make), but whereas The Power of One is fanciful and naive, A Dry White Season represents reality through and through. Read it and see for yourself.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 03:46 AM
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I recently finished, and thoroughly enjoyed: The Wilderness Family by Kobie Kruger. Memoir of 17 years as wife to a game warden in Kruger National Park. Not sure what type of books you enjoy, this one being about raising a family in the wilderness and wonderful stories of living with the wildlife.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 04:06 AM
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An older book - but I enjoyed reading it - is Starlings Laughing by June Vendall Clark. It's her memoirs of living in Botswana in the waning days of colonial Africa. (I bought a used, old library copy of the book through Amazon.com)
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Feb 21st, 2006, 06:39 AM
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Thank you so much for all the input! With all these books, I can really get into this whole African mood, and learn many things in the process. Thanks again for generously sharing your knowledge. Now to search Amazon!
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Feb 21st, 2006, 07:09 AM
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I am halfway through Power of One right now and it is a very interesting (at times troubling) read. Interesting that Sarvowinner didn't recommend the movie because my brother thought it was wonderful. Of course he hadn't read the book, so maybe he would change his mind then. As for movies you might want to watch either before or on the plane (it was an option when we flew there last June) Cry the Beloved Country. I know that the book is used in some of our senior English classes here, but I haven't read it. I plan to pick it up at some point since I found the movie good.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 02:43 PM
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I still rate The Power of One as one of my most incredible reading experiences ever. It grabbed me with the first sentence and would not let me go. I knew next to nothing of South Africa and read it while on a Eurrail trip backpacking around Europe, and it was one of the most amazingly transporting, delectable literary experiences I have ever had. Every time I looked up from the book to gaze out the train window I expected to be in Africa. I will never forget the shock of seeing a field of sunflowers in the south of France when I had visions of mines and boxing rings in my head. I ended up reading portions of it aloud to my boyfriend when we couldn't sleep in our couchette one night, and when I finally finished the book he read it too, and I think he enjoyed it even more than I did. I still think it may be the most vivid fiction I've ever read. I would not necessarily disagree with characterizing it as "fanciful and naive" -- that is certainly an accurate description of one of the characters -- but overall I found the book to be much more than that. (I also despised the movie.)

LOVED Cry the Beloved Country and recently re-read it. Gritty, sad, spare, and inspiring.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 08:49 PM
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OK, perhaps Power of One wasn't THAT bad. But I do still suggest reading A Dry White Season - the style is much more dry (excuse the pun) but when you read it you get the feeling "this is the truth, this really happened". I like that in a work of fiction dealing with serious issues. I guess the superhero-like main character of Power of One didn't work for me.
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Feb 22nd, 2006, 06:36 AM
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I also agree with the Power of One.
Other ones to look at...anything by Beverly Harper or Wilber Smith
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Feb 22nd, 2006, 03:54 PM
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vicki2201,
A fun book, if you like old Agatha Christie mysteries is "The Man in the Brown Suit". It is far from her best writing (none of her books are on par with The Da Vinci Code, which I really enjoyed, set in Paris), but has a lot of background about the 1930's South Africa and Rhodesia and Vic Falls (now Zim). It certainly is light reading, and not as good as "Murder on the Nile" or "Murder on the Orient Express" - good escape books for a rainy day. Have fun. - Joan
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Feb 22nd, 2006, 06:43 PM
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i haven't read it in a while- is the poisonwood bible south africa???

i LOOOOOVE that book!
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Feb 24th, 2006, 02:21 AM
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Sarah Penny wrote "Whiteness of Bones" (publ. 1997), and I quite enjoyed that - it's a different look at a white woman's life in SA a long time ago.
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Feb 24th, 2006, 02:46 AM
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Rainbow Diary by John Malathronas - it is a travelogue. He travels all around SA - cities, game drives, The Garden Route and finishes in Cape Town.
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Mar 6th, 2006, 06:48 PM
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I just finished "skinner's drift" by Lisa Fugard. I found it to be very informative of the period just prior to and just after aparteid, as well as a pretty good coming of age etc. type novel. Fugard grew up in S. Africa. This story takes place on the northern border between S. Africa and Botswana.
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Mar 6th, 2006, 10:27 PM
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I second Rainbow Diary - its a great read. Also I'd recommend Heart of the hunter by Deon Meyer, a thriller with a South African setting. He is a South African writer and has written at least 2 other books.
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Mar 7th, 2006, 05:48 AM
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I second Brink's "A Dry White Season", and I'm also a big fan of Wilber Smith.

The reason people who've read "The Power of One" don't like the movie is that in the movie, the ending is changed, to emphasize the power of collective action rather than the power of individual action. It's really a disservice to the author.

I think there is another thread on this topic from a while ago, which mentions some other books.

Thanks to all for mentioning books I'm not familiar with -- it's off to the libray for me!
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