I really related to Birds of Uganda, due to its East African setting. The descriptions of the country, the people, the markets, the food, the towns, the weather, were familiar to me, because I was born in Nyasaland,  a small country to the south of Uganda, but nonetheless somewhat  East African . The themes of colonialism, racism, and workplace bullying loom large, but luckily the human interest aspect was more predominant, the  knots and tangles of family relationships, a love story.

And I am Sovereign fizzed across my life in spectacular style. Loved it!


I am Sovereign – Nicola Barker. Wonderful – the novel reinvented. Funny, original ,fresh.See my review on this site on 19 August. Rave, Rave, Rave.

We are all Birds of Uganda – Hafsa Zayyan . Hard to believe it’s a  Debut novel.  Second and Third generation Asians were kicked out of Uganda by dictator Idi Amin in 1972 , and reluctantly re-homed by Britain.  The slow exploration of an Indian family’s past, and struggles with the younger generation in the  present, made for an engrossing family saga. Recommended.

Mobile Library – David Whitehouse. A cracking adventure story  combined with a coming-of-age theme, plus a  homage to  books, childhood classics,  and adventure stories, that we all loved.  An exciting contemporary read, with a satisfying ending.  Recommended.

The Reunion – Joanne Fedler. Seven women friends rendezvous in a country house on a weekend getaway. Secrets and stories are aired and shared about motherhood, marriage, men, triumphs, and tragedies.  The narrator gets very personal and intense, too much so on occasion.The major takeaways were: the male species is a mystery, teenagers are monsters, and women do the best they can against massive odds. Men will run a mile from the book, women will embrace it.

The Scandalous Times of a Book Louse. A memoir of a childhood – Robert Muponde. Growing up in rural Zimbabwe during the 1970s and 80s.  If you want to find out about growing up in a large, poverty stricken rural African family then read the book. But be prepared for full on, no holds barred, raw, vivid,  story telling. Between the folktales, songs and poems, there’s plenty of violence (against children!) animal cruelty, and sex. Sensitive readers will not enjoy the book.

Endurance – A C Spahn. (e-book) Refreshing to find a space opera written by a woman who gives us the entire gamut of purple, Space Opera,  heroic action and  glory with an old, battered space ship, a disgraced Captain, a crew of misfit geniuses,  plus aliens with tentacles, and more. Lotsa fun!  One for the SF fans.  

The Girl in the Red Dress – Ann Tyler. Ordinary people living ordinary lives; finnicky middle aged PC techie mucks up his tepid  romantic  relationship. Not a rave read for me.  



Reading Nicola Barker’s novels is like ….  Finding a piquant slice of dill pickle in a bland potato salad.  Like  assuming all car factories produce only white sedans (if you live in South Africa, you might well think so)  and then a screaming- red- flamenco -red- fire- engine- red sports models roars past:  HELLO!  IT’S GOTTA BE NICOLA BARKER.

My previous recent read was another novella by a very popular, well-known author, who shall remain anonymous. I finished the story, yawned, and thought: oh for %^*’s sake: another boring, solipsistic, American family story. Boooorrriiiinnng . And then I did myself a huge favour and picked up Nicola Barker’s novella.

 And my capital letters are an homage to her novella  I AM SOVEREIGN.  She has heaps of fun  playing around with the typeface.  AMERICAN TYPEFACE in particular, which MS Word doesn’t offer.  She has more fun with fonts ranging from huge to teeny tiny   less than oh, I don’t know, 4 pt?  In case you are shaking your head, take a look at the following pic from I Am Sovereign.

Hey! Shoo! Wow! etc.  The four protagonists, five, if you count the Sudanese man who NB cuts out of the narrative and tells you why, to which he peevishly responds in italics; where was I ? oh yes: the entire action takes place during a house for sale viewing, over a period of twenty minutes. During which time we  engage with Kabbalistic mysticism, a dictatorial  self-help guru, a teddy bear maker, a Chinese wheeler dealer and her  cowed daughter-translator.  Towards the end of the novella, Nicola  has some introspective chats with us, (the readers) about writing the novella, and about her recent trip to Normandy in France.

She also inserts periodical rants about the infuriating Auto-Correct feature of  her word-processing programme  that continuously  changes the name of the Sudanese man – probably the main reason she excised him from the story. Both she and her copy editor are driven mad by this. We can empathise with her frustration, can’t we?  Don’t even get me started on Auto Correct on WhatsApp.

So: Nicola Barker is endlessly inventive, that’s one of the joys of her work – she doesn’t churn out repetitive books, as do so many popular authors – see  my grumble above.

I suppose she’s avant garde. Actually, I don’t care what she is or isn’t labelled, all I know is her books are fresh, invigorating,  and hugely enjoyable.  Thus far I’ve read The Cauliflower (historical and much more serious), Five Miles from Outer Hope  (hilarious) and now I am Sovereign. 

I can’t wait to read more!


The arrival of a courier van  at my front door was a happy event today. The red and white plastic flyer contained a book – yay!    It was the  Ismail Beah book that I won at the Virtually Yours Zoom session in July.  The lucky draw at the end of the interview selected my name, along with  four other names. VY  and the Goethe Institute are so generous, donating  five books per session.

So now I have Ishmael Beach’s Little Family  to look forward to. I discover that he  is a Sierra Leonean – American hybrid

I must admit I had to consult my atlas to locate Sierra Leone. I knew the country was located in West Africa but no more than that.  I live in Southern Africa, and  must confess that West Africa is a confusing jumble of countries, some familiar names, but no more than that.  Usually we get snippets of  news from the two larger countries of Nigeria and Ghana, but beyond that?  Nope.

Wilipedia filled in more gaps for me about the writer himself:

BornIsmael Beah
23 November 1980 (age 40)
Mogbwemo, Bonthe District, Sierra Leone
Occupationauthor, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Children Affected by War, human rights activist, former child soldier
NationalitySierra Leonean
Notable worksA Long Way Gone
Little Family
Radiance of Tomorrow

Vanity Fair  declared him to be:  “ Arguably the most-read African writer in contemporary literature.”

THANKS,  VIRTUALLY YOURS  for putting  one of his books into my hands. Watch this space for a review