An Affectionate Satire – Jenny Hobbs
The sub-title is apt: Jenny Hobbs skilfully skewers all the woes and peccadilloes of life in an impoverished South African small town. And yet, despite the dust, hunger, disease, squalor and crime there is still space for a small miracle, that transforms the town and its people and bring a smile to the face of the reader.
Schoolgirl Sweetness Moloi claims to have seen a vision. Let me leave it at that, lest I reveal the catalyst.
There’s a rich melange of characters: Ben Feinbaum is hopelessly sinking with the vanishing fortunes of the family owned hotel, the town’s one and only. Raylene, the volunteer teacher working in the school, boarding with the nuns of the Little Sisters of Extreme Destitution and being bullied by bitter old Sister Immaculata; the drunken Dr Ugh; the Smart Boys – the town’s *tsotsis; the senile old Chief Mohlalipula, outdated patriarch enveloped in a cloud of snuff; the two posh old ladies starving to death amidst a flood of feral cats; the alcoholic store-owner; the VanderLindeans barricading themselves for the siege against the Swaart Gevaar and life in general; the scheming dominee; the maniacal Anglican minister; and so it goes on. One character deserves her own introduction: No 1 Senior wife, Violet, in her immaculate suits, PR and business manager for her evangelical go-getter husband, the Prophet Hallelujah, the highly successful inventor of the Correct Baptised God Come Down in Africa Church.
There are other characters too who play a role in the unfolding furore, notably the brash, macho Aussie journalist Rod the Sod; and the principled policeman Capt Godwin Ngobese who is determined to stop the crime and bribery. There’s a ducking and diving government Minister and his old-school Director General grimly hanging on for his pension, no matter what. South Africa in a microcosm. The drama, the tears, the violence, and also, the hope, reconciliation and success.
I loved the book and it may well hit my Number One slot in my 2017 Reading Stakes. Read this book – highly recommended.
Publisher: Umuzi 2012