We review three books, each racy in its own way
'Bantu Knots' by Lebo Mazibuko.
'How to Kidnap the Rich' by Rahul Raina.
Bantu Knots *****
Kwela Books, R260
If there’s a coming-of-age story every young South African needs to read, Bantu Knots is it. As the reader, you become Naledi’s pal as she navigates her life from being at home with her strict granny, to watching her mom do everything to get a rich man to buy her things and then, in between, finding her way. But boy, does she make mistakes. Friends, men and parties dominate her world when she starts varsity but soon she’s also introduced to feminism, art and politics. There’s also something incredibly special about reading a novel that has local touches that you, as a South African, will relate to. — Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt
How to Kidnap the Rich ****
Little, Brown, R340
A debut novel sparkling with zest and hilarity, this doubles as a riotous commentary about Indian society. It lampoons and lances the inequalities of Indian culture, and relationships between rich, white countries and poor, postcolonial countries. Ramesh makes a living as an “examination consultant”.
'Cult Following' by Bexy Cameron.
He impersonates his clients, the scions of wealthy families, taking their gruelling national exams that determine entrance to the top universities. It all goes to hell when he inadvertently scores the top marks, making the less-than-brilliant brat he was fronting for an overnight sensation. Obvious shades here of the same social forces that recently led to the pay-for-place scandal that shook the Ivy League universities in the US and the arrests of a variety of Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street moguls. This is a hilariously clear-eyed satire that spares no-one, not even Ramesh. — William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye
Cult Following: My Escape and Return to the Children of God *****
It reads like a novel and one can easily slip into thinking that the story is fiction, but once you realise it’s not, it is a punch to the gut. Cameron, a survivor of The Children of God cult, does not only cover her own horrific story about child abuse, but as an adult now, she purposefully travels to different cults around the US looking for answers to why people become involved in these closed communities. Even more heart-rending than her childhood tales (at 10 years old, she was forced to be silent for an entire year), are her confrontations with her awful parents now as an adult. It leaves the reader gobsmacked. Books and documentaries about cults seem to be trendy at the moment; maybe it’s because we are at this juncture again of figuring out what we want a community to be. Cameron’s memoir carefully examines this. — Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt