Book Review: Happiness is a Four Letter Word v Men of the South


Following this summary of what is currently on my to-read bookshelf I have a couple of books that I would like to review.

Happiness is a Four Letter Word – Cynthia Jele

I loved this book, it deals with two things that I am particularly passionate about: Johannesburg and female relationships.

  • The book is what would happen if Sex and the City had been cast in a cosmopolitan African city. If you would love to see that, check out the YouTube series, An African City.
  • The themes are easily recognisable: love, family, beauty, work/ career advancement, marriage, female friendships.
  • The book is a really easy read, I started on Friday at 7 and finished the next day by 12.
  • Having said that, it is definitely a conversation starter and will have you thinking deeply about some of the issues dealt with for instance, what would I tell a dear friend that was cheating on her husband because she did not exactly marry him for love? Or a friend that rekindles communication with an old ex?
  • Only concern and I guess because of my personal views, I feel like the author portrays a very negative view of (Black) relationships and someone that is not acquainted with any Black people might take it as a given that this is how our love dynamics play out. Yes it’s a novel, but their portrayal is definitely very one-sided, what happened to “normal“?
  • Would I recommend it? Definitely yes!! I actually cannot wait for the author to release a second book.

Men of the South – Zukiswa Wanner

A bit of a preliminary disclaimer is that I read this book on the back of Happiness and the after-glow it gave me.

  • The book’s main theme is love and relationships (gender dynamics, hetero- or homosexuality, family and friendships) and it definitely deals with each of these in turn.
  • The book is set in Johannesburg and Cape Town, cities that I can safely say I am familiar with which makes the reading that bit enjoyable when I can understand the physical setting.
  • The book provides an entry point to have some difficult conversations for example, being a Black homosexual in a culture where one is expected to get a wife and settle down or what if I earn more than my husband and can take care of him, should he stay home while I work?
  • However, I think it attempted to do too much in a few pages and fell short. Hence, it was not as memorable as it could possibly be. I also felt that the first person reportage was not too helpful either.
  • Overall, the book was quite predictable and I would not recommend it unless you maybe had a few hours and did not want to be wowed but wanted to tick a book off your reading list.

Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda

I tried to read this book and failed to get into it despite trying. In light of my recent advice on how to read more books, I am giving up and will mark this is a non-read on my part. My biggest issue I suppose is that I love it when he writes about various aspects of South African people and the setting of this book was too different for me to adjust my expectations accordingly.

 

 

 

 

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