Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book review: When God was a Rabbit

It is the title of this book that grabs your attention, and conveys the quirky innocence and ethereal energy of this tale.

It is these qualities that are the best aspects of When God was a Rabbit. The writing is especially beautiful, unique and enjoyable within and of itself.

But here in lies the problem. It is almost as if Sarah Winman wrote this book so that she could write, not because she had a story to tell. The book is one long ‘series of unfortunate events’ that seem to be written into the narrative only so that the author could explore her writing talent. Events and characters are beautifully described, but they seem to pile up and multiply just so that there is some kind of vague narrative and shell in which to place Winman’s beautiful words.

Indeed, one of the crucial moments of the book is mentioned in a short sentence and is never fully explained, leaving me frustrated at why Winman chose that event on which to craft her story. Other moments and characters also appear out of nowhere, then suddenly become important, and are more ‘hooks’ to hang the story on.

But despite all this, the book is still an enjoyable read that I recommend. It is a winding tale of growing up, and certainly explores ‘love in all its forms.’ Its best aspect is the writing itself, as well as a wonderful exploration on the nature of childhood. Winman manages to convey the concoction of innocence, fear, confusion and joy of being a child, which provides a powerful perspective of the world.

The book tells the story of Elly as she grows up, and her relationships with family and friends. A theme of ‘lost and found’ prevails, as Elly experiences both love and loss in her life and relationships. Her brother Joe, her best friend Jenny Penny, and her rabbit, called ‘god’, are colourful characters that provide the most weight and importance to the story. The book is divided into two parts – childhood and adulthood, which also gives it a little more structure.

The humour, intelligence, pain and learning reflected in the childhood narrative makes it the better half. It conveys so much about the innocence and intelligence of children, which I feel is the most important aspect of the book. Once we understand our childhood selves, we can look towards the future. Only where we know where we have come from can we know where we are going.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ten reasons to love winter

Every year I look forward to winter, but when it arrives I hate it! Getting up in the dark is the worst. But I do know winter can also be a time of revitalization, and I just need to remind myself why I love it. So here are reasons to love winter…

1. Cuddling!

2. Lighting a fire (Love our fireplace!).

3. Walks in the park, enjoying the autumn leaves and the fresh air.

4. Walks on the beach, with the waves crashing.

5. Baking!

6. Soups, stews and lovely warm meals.

7. Wearing boots and scarves!

8. Lots of bubble baths.

9. Listening to the rain…

10. Staying indoors, spending quality time with those I love <3

Images from We Heart It

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book review: To the End of the Land

What does war mean, really? Renowned Israeli author David Grossman cuts to the core of what conflict really means for people; and delivers a universal, searing and powerful anti-war novel like no other.

Despite it being set in Israel, Grossman’s story could apply to any individual, family or nation that experiences the daily reality of conflict, war or terrorism. And at the same time, it is a searing study of his own society - of a country and its peoples who carry the traumas, dreams and fears of their nations, and who have to deal with the conflict reaching into the core of their lives. Portraying both a universal story and yet one that is so particular to Israel is just the first of one of Grossman’s many achievements in this novel.

To the End of the Land tells the story of Ora, whose son Ofer decides to return to the army instead of hiking with her in the north of the country, which was supposed to be their celebration to mark the end of his military service. Ora has a deep and instinctive fear that Ofer will die in this new operation, and spontaneously decides to go on the hike and avoid all forms of communication. She feels that if she runs away, the 'informers' will not be able to tell her if Ofer dies, and that he therefore cannot die.

Ora invites her old friend Avram to join her on the hike. If anything, Avram epitomises the story – a genius and true lover of life; he was captured as a POW, tortured and left for dead by the Egyptians in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and is now a shadow of a human being. He symbolises the true horror of war – how it destroys love, family and the body and soul of a human being.

As they hike, Ora delves into the past, her history with Avram and her husband Ilan, and her sons, Ofer and Adam. The love triangle between Avram, Ilan and Ora, and the sons that were conceived by each man, create a powerful narrative. But it is Ora’s description of the minutiae of family life (as if saying it all will render her sons alive and safe) that is the true genius of this story. Grossman portrays family life in the most fascinating, painstaking and realistic narrative, following his theory of how the world doesn’t change in government halls and offices, but rather in the homes and interactions of families. And as Grossman builds and creates the intricate portrait of this family, he demonstrates how war and conflict can destroy it all – how it can invade and break down our most intimate spaces and what is most precious to us. This is the true tragedy of war, and it is what makes this novel a poignant, powerful and painful portrayal of war – and a classic anti-war novel that will stand the test of time.

The importance of land in the book is also a theme of incredible importance, as the land almost takes on a personable role as a character in the story. Indeed, as land is the central facet of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of so many other wars, its central role in the story highlights what a powerful place it holds in these narratives - but also how it is something separate, that should not govern human behaviour or choices.

Finally, the fact that Grossman’s son, Uri, was killed in the second Lebanon war at the time of writing this book gives the story an even more searing reality – as if that pain is woven between the words on the page. It is this tragedy that delivers the heart of Grossman’s message – that war destroys people, family, individuals and the very inner light of human beings. It is this message that will make To the End of the Land a classic piece of literature that could (hopefully) change the way we see war in the future.

Read more about the book and Grossman here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To market....

I've been going through a market phase lately, trying to make the most of the last few summer weekends when you want to be outdoors... plus I just love markets! We went to the one at Century City (pretty good) and the Tokai market (highly recommended - it's lovely!) so I was thrilled to see that the new City Bowl Market on Hope was opening on Saturday 16 April, which was just down the road from me!

It definitely lived up to expectations. The hall has the character and atmosphere that every market needs, and the selection of food, crafts and fresh produce were perfect. We walked around and were spoilt for choice for lunch. I landed up going for an incredible butternut, gorgonzola and lentil lasagne that was simply delicious!

We ate upstairs on a balcony where a bar was set up, overlooking the market below. We then walked around and I bought this gorgeous wooden heart necklace, sweet cactus and fresh fruit and avocados (grapes, avos, pomegranates and pretty much everything else were only R5!)

If I had any points for improvement they would be firstly the seating - although I loved the look of the tables and hay bales, the hay was difficult to sit on, especially as I was wearing a dress! Also, more outdoor area would be great. Lastly, as someone who tries to eat sugar-free/wheat-free, it would be great to have some sugar-free baked goods - but that's just my personal preference!

All in all, I'm so excited about this market. It was busy without being overcrowded, is so convenient and had a great selection of market goods to allow me to enjoy a market for many more weekends to come! And with winter arriving soon, the indoor aspect is certainly a plus. I predict it becoming hugely popular with Capetonians in the months ahead!

Unfortunately, I only took a few photos with my BlackBerry - they certainly don't do the market justice! 

The City Bowl Market on Hope is open every Saturday from 9am - 2pm at 14 Hope Street, Gardens.

I'm back!

I've probably set the record for not blogging for the longest period of time, but I'm glad to say I'm back! A new job, new place and the year flying at a crazy speed meant that I never got back here. But things are slowing down and I really want to get into blogging again! So hopefully you will see some new posts from me on a more regular basis. Love the inspirational image above, from We Heart It. xxx

Friday, August 20, 2010

The elements of awakening

From Macbeth to Lord of the Flies, writers over the ages have examined the power of nature to awaken the animal aspect in mankind. Sleeper’s Wake by Alistair Morgan places itself within this conversation, yet takes the discussion further, looking at the power of nature to help humanity heal

Sleeper’s Wake tells the story of a man who has lost everything, beginning at the point where he wakes from a coma to be told that his wife and daughter have been killed in a car accident, and he was the driver.

Retreating to Nature’s Valley near Plettenberg Bay to recover, we begin a journey with him that unwraps layers of memories; echoed by an almost undetectable shedding of human norms, boundaries and ethical codes.

This process speeds up when John encounters a family who is also in the valley to recover after a violent trauma, which emerges from a profoundly South African context.

As John and the family’s lives collide, their moral restrictions begin to unravel until the novel hurtles towards a shocking and shattering denouement.

Morgan’s novel almost enters into a conversation with Lord of the Flies, with strong references to the classic. A walk to a mountain called Pig’s Head (which really does exist in Nature’s Valley), heralds a vital moment of moral rebellion that hints strongly at Golding’s narrative. Later, an encounter with baboons brings the question to its climax, as the boundary between man and beast blurs completely.

Morgan also engages with historical moments that question where man ends and nature begins. The title of his novel refers to when John is thinking about the trauma that has happened to the family he meets; and says how men are ‘sleepers’ that all have an animal instinct that can be awakened.

The theory comes from historian Christopher Browning’s study Battalion 101, which looks at the behaviour of men in the Holocaust; and where he ultimately concludes that it is ordinary men who can commit terrible deeds.

However, Morgan’s novel takes the discussion one step further, demonstrating that nature can bring out the worst in man, but that it is also where he will be able to heal. For it is only when man acknowledges that tragedy and joy is the rhythm of the natural life cycle that he can make peace with his past. Just as we sleep and awake, and day follows night, so is our time in this world. Thus, Sleeper’s Wake is a profound study of man at his essence; and his relationship to the earth that we live on.

South Africa is a society that encounters excessive trauma and violence; and yet has an abundance of nature and beauty. As these forces pull South Africans in two directions (“Should I stay or should I go?”), Sleeper’s Wake is vital reading for those looking for a brave and deep discussion on the nature of man, alive and awake in this environment.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pretty in the city

Spring has arrived early in Cape Town, with each day bringing sunshine, sapphire skies and the scent of summer. I refuse to believe that the rain will return, and am ready to celebrate all the gorgeous spring fashion that is blossoming around us!

I think this pretty in the city image reflects the femininity, florals and "candyfloss" (in ELLE magazine's words) of the new season. High-waisted skirts, romantic sillouettes and flowing fabrics all create whimsical spirit that is like a breath of fresh air after the sharp shoulders and heavy details of the winter season.

I love the heart necklace - a simple accessory that brings the whole outfit together with an earthy energy, complementing and contrasting the white romanticism.

These ballet flats are another perfect accessory addition to this trend - playful and pretty, who wouldn't want to be a ballerina for a day?

To highlight the romanticism and femininity of the season, bring in a harder edge, like a cuff bangle or even a leather jacket if there is still a chill in the air. And when summer arrives, a ruffled waistcoat like the one below is perfect for a nuanced look.

The contrast between tough and soft fabrics and accessories will bring effortless style to your spring look. A bit of gritty brings out the pretty!