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A Walk Across the Sun

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A Walk Across the Sun  When the 2004 Asian tsunami hits, in it’s devastating aftermath two sisters are orphaned and theirs is a heartbreaking story.  In America, Thomas, a lawyer is struggling with his separation from his Indian wife, Priya.  He decides to take a sabbatical that takes him to India, (where his wife has returned) to work for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinents child traffickers.  Thomas becomes involved in the lives of the two sisters, one who is rescued and the other who is taken from India, to France and then America.  At the same time, he tries to save his marriage.  This was a fairly good read.  It highlights the issues of human trafficking, of people tricked and forced into modern day slavery, particularly sexual slavery.  A sad book in many ways.

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South Africa vs Australia

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No, I am not talking about cricket or rugby.  Having just posted a blog about a Deon Meyer crime novel, I realize I have mostly done posts on books, so I am not really doing the Film part any justice seeing as I have called this blog The South African Book and Film Blog………

The Killing Field

Last month I watched two crime movies, back to back.  The first was an Aussie movie The Killing Field, starring Rebecca Gibney and Peter O’Brien.  I last watched the pair, as a young married couple, Sam and Emma, in the tv series The Flying Doctors.   So it was interesting to see them as two jaded detectives in this movie. The film is about the disappearance of a young girl, in a small town, which then then leads to the discovery of the bodies of five women buried in shallow graves.  It was an enjoyable enough crime film, not a huge amount of action, so for those who like special effects and a rush of adrenaline, this might prove a bit boring for some.

The next movie was Zulu starring Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker, and if you want to a watch an action packed movie, South Africa wins hands down.  Three South African Cops, two whites and a Zulu, investigate drug related murders.  Each of the cops has his own personal burdens to deal with, which certainly doesn’t make their jobs any easier, in a country that is known for it’s high crime rate and violent criminals.  Bloom and Whitaker’s South African accents aren’t too bad, and they are great in their roles.  There is one scene particularly that is not for the feint hearted at all.  It is a gory film, but it’s not just about that, it has a pretty good story line as well.  A bit over the top probably, but still a good watch.

Zulu

Back down under, a couple of weeks ago, I watched another Aussie movie, also a crime flick, Mystery Road.

Mysteryroad

I felt it had more depth than The Killing Field.  Set in the outback, an Aboriginal detective investigates the murder of a young Aboriginal girl.  As always, these cops seem to have their burdens to deal with, but then again, cops haven’t got the easiest of jobs, and they see the worst humanity has to offer. Aaron Pedersen plays his role as a brooding policeman well, returning to his home town and is caught between a rock and a hard place, when he joins the town’s all white police force and often condescending attitude towards him and then has to deal with his aboriginal community who are distrusting of him as a policeman.  It’s certainly got a western feel to it, about those on the margins of mainstream society.

Thirteen Hours

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thirteen-hours

A roller coaster of a ride, this story is set mostly on the streets of Cape Town, about a young woman’s fight to stay alive, while being hunted by brutal thugs.  I think it’s a great book, capturing the real essence of the racial melting pot of South Africa.   Let’s face it, South Africa is known for it’s high crime rate, and it’s violent criminals and this is Deon Meyer’s fodder.  It’s gritty reading, but it’s good.  Trackers was the first Meyer book I read, and Thirteen Hours is the second.  I enjoyed Trackers, but Thirteen Hours was even better.  I will certainly be reading  his other books.

I think I over enthusiastically set myself the goal, on GoodReads of reading 52 books this year.  A book a week.  Which means I’ve already got catching up to do.  Somehow, I don’t quite think so!

2015

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To all you avid book readers out there, all the best for the year ahead and hope you get lots of reading done!  I make the normal New Years Resolutions, but whether I keep them or not is another story.  Anyway, one of my resolutions is to read more and keep this blog updated more frequently.  At times, I tend to get distracted easily, despite my enjoyment of reading.  The internet and computers have been a blessing, but they can also be a curse if not used appropriately.  Instead of reading or writing/blogging, my real passions, I end up browsing facebook idly, playing the likes of pacman or card games  – in general, just wasting time.  Maybe it’s because I have a job that requires a lot of me, emotionally and physically, that when I’m home and at my computer, it’s easier just to do the easy things, like play games and waste time on facebook, instead of being more productive.  After all, my excuse is I work hard, so when I’m home, what’s the harm in relaxing and being a little lazy?  Well, for me it is harmful, because I am not doing my creative side any justice.  We are all creative as humans, and it’s our choice as individuals as to how we use our gift of creativity that has been given to us.   So, here’s to a creative year.  A year of reading good books and writing about them.

In the last month of 2014, my reads were, Gray Mountain – John Grisham, Lucky – Alice Sebold, and Trackers – Deon Meyer.

Gray Mountain

I have read a few John Grisham books, but not for a while.  This book, set in the Appalachian mountains, in a small coal mining town, was a fair read.  A New York city lawyer, Samantha, loses her job and ends up working, without pay, for a small town law firm, helping the likes of abused wives, single mothers and helping elderly folk with their wills.  Samantha misses the city, and hopes to return, but does realize she hated her job, and feels a sense of fulfillment helping the needy members of society, who are more often than not, left on the fringes, with few people who really care about them.  On the other hand she is bored by the lack of “entertainment” in the small town and misses her old social life.  She takes up the case of a miner who has black lung disease, and in the process learns about strip mining and it’s evils.  The pace was a little slow, but it had a few twists and turns, just enough to keep me interested.  I have always been interested in the mountains, wherever in the world they may be and I guess that’s why I read this book.  Some reviews I’ve read, said the ending was bad, but I’ve read worse, and Gray Mountain wasn’t too bad.

lucky

Lucky, a memoir by Alice Sebold (author of Lovely Bones) is about her rape while at College.  It’s heart wrenching, and she hits you almost immediately with her brutal rape. She describes the aftermath of her rape, how her rapist was caught and convicted and how she dealt with it all.   She also writes about her childhood, her family, and of herself as a person, at that time. Not an easy read.  What do those of us, who haven’t been through something like she has, say?  Very little really.

trackers_400

Deon Meyer, an established South African crime writer, has written numerous books, none of which I’ve read before.  A mystery/thriller, set mostly in the Cape of South Africa, this book has various stories, which all tie in with each other at the end.  This book delves into the criminal underbelly of South African society, with it’s multi layered tale of thuggish criminals, gangs, murderers, those caught up in circumstances beyond their control, and the police and detectives (those ones that aren’t crooked) trying their best to do good jobs in a crime ridden country.  I’ll certainly look for more of his books to read.

Cry Of The Fish Eagle and Viscount Down

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cry of the fish eagle

This is a novel set between England and colonial Rhodesia.  It begins during the second world war, with Rupert Pengelly who promises to look after the daughter of his friend Rigby Savage, a fellow pilot, who did not make the war alive.  His friend’s daughter, Sasa, is living in the Rhodesian bush, with her grandfather, and Rupert sets out to find her.  There is plenty of adventure, romance,  betrayal and the story spans the decades until just after Zimbabwean independence.  The story accurately reflects the history of Rhodesia  and how white Rhodesians felt about the land they settled on.  I was born after the Rhodesian UDI (the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965), and although I do know the history of it, it was interesting reading more about it in this story.  I thought there were probably too many secondary characters, and it was a long read, but eventually they all tied in together.  I’m not adverse to a long read, and as long as a  long read keeps my attention, I won’t have a problem finishing it, and this book, despite the many characters, managed to keep me going.   If you are up for a saga spanning forty or so decades, this is a pretty good read.

Earlier on this year I read Viscount Down, based on true events, another Rhodesian book.

viscountdown

On the 3rd September 1978, a Vickers Viscount aircraft travelling to Salisbury via Karbia, carrying 52 passengers, was shot down by a Russian made surface to air missile.   Of the 52 passengers and four crew, 38 souls died in the crash. Insurgents (terrorists) then approached the wreckage, rounded up the 10 survivors they could see and massacred them with automatic gunfire. Three passengers survived by hiding in the surrounding bush, while a further five lived because they had gone to look for water before the guerrillas arrived.  When the SAS parachuted into the crash site the next morning, a grizzly scene awaited them. Nearby the wreckage lay the bodies of  women, children and a baby who survived the crash landing, only to be bayoneted, and shot to death.

Many Rhodesians felt let down by the British and other western countries, as there appeared to be little condemnation for those acts of sheer brutality.  I found it interesting that Desmond Tutu, at the time a Bishop, sent a message to the Memorial Service – “No condemnation could be strong enough for such a heartless act of slaying defenseless and helpless people, and heartfelt sympathy go to their relatives and friends”

Extracts of the sermon, at the Memorial Service for those 38 souls, by a Reverend John da Costa –

‘I will not allow politics to be preached in this Cathedral and yet times come when it is necessary to speak out ……“Nobody who holds sacred the dignity of human life can be anything but sickened at the events attending the crash of the Viscount Hunyani. Survivors have the greatest call on the sympathy and assistance of every other human being. The horror of the crash was bad enough, but that this should have been compounded by the murder of the most savage and treacherous sort leaves us stunned with disbelief and brings revulsion in the minds of anyone deserving the name “human”. This bestiality, worse than anything in recent history, stinks in the nostrils of heaven. But are we deafened by the voice of protest from nations which call themselves “civilised”? We are not. Like men in the story of the good Samaritan. They ‘pass by on the other side’. One listens for condemnation by Dr David Owen, himself a medical doctor, trained to help all in need. One listens, and the silence is deafening. One listens for loud condemnation by the President of the United States, himself a man from the Bible-Baptist belt , and once again the silence is deafening. One listens for condemnation by the Pope, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, by all who love the name of God. Again the silence is deafening. I do not believe in white supremacy. I do not believe in black supremacy either……The ghastliness of this ill-fated flight from Kariba will be burned upon our memories for years to come. For others far from our borders, it is an intellectual matter, not one which affects them deeply.”

This is an interesting book that makes for compelling reading, and it is also about the aftermath of the crash and how the Rhodesian government went after the insurgents responsible, in their need for retribution.

When the Air Malaysia plane was shot down over the Ukraine earlier on this year, it brought home memories for many (ex) Rhodesians.  It is widely believed that the Russians shot the plane down, thinking it was a military aircraft, and the similarity of the Rhodesian Viscount crash, is that Joshua Nkomo who claimed responsibility for the attack, claimed that the Viscount was used for Rhodesian military purposes – and many (ex) Rhodesians  of course see the common thread between these two crashes as the Russians, as the Russians were known to be arming the insurgents in Rhodesia.

Yes, the native Zimbabweans wanted their freedom, and quite rightly so.  They went to war to gain their freedom.  However, sadly it is the innocents who are often caught up in the crossfire, and one cannot deny that atrocities were committed by both sides.  Furthermore, can anyone justify the killing of innocent women and a baby, even in the name of a war for freedom?  Personally, I believe there is no justification at all.  As it was, Ian Smith and Joshua Nkomo were engaged in apparently promising negotiations to bring about an end to the war, so what point was there in the shooting down of that plane?

Killing Kennedy.

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When I was in high school, history was my favourite subject. I remember reading about JFK and Abraham Lincoln.  Bear in mind though, that I am not American.  I was born in Zimbabwe, where I grew up and went to school and left the country just before I turned eighteen.  I am of mostly English descent, so in other other words I am a white ex Zimbabwean and now a South African citizen.  I mention my background just to give one an understanding of my perspective about American history. I don’t claim to be a history buff at all, I simply enjoy reading about historical events.  I went to a private school in Zimbabwe, and we were taught from the O Level curriculum, which was modelled on the British school system.  Zimbabwe after all, had once been an English/British colony, so the English influence was still felt, even in the mid to late eighties, after independence, when I was in high school.  The history I was taught in high school, for my O Level exam, was mostly on the Second World War.  We learned about men like Gandhi and JFK. I remember vaguely learning about the Bay of Pigs but not quite understanding what it was really all about.  What interested me more about JFK were the “coincidences/similarities” between the assassinations of JFK and Lincoln.  We weren’t actually taught about it, but I remember reading about it in a book my parents had and being quite fascinated by it.

A year or so ago, I read Killing Lincoln and really enjoyed it.  I felt taken back in time, and could almost feel like I was there. I didn’t really know much about the civil war at the time, so the book gave me more of an insight into it, and into the life of Abraham Lincoln.  I had downloaded Killing Kennedy at the same time I downloaded Killing Lincoln, but never got around to reading to it.  I finished reading it a few days (not intentionally) before the 51st anniversary of his death on November the 22nd.  Like the latter book, I was drawn into the life of Kennedy, and the build up to his death.  If one is looking for a good conspiracy story, this is not the book to read.  It is more of an historical account of the politics of that era, and of the personal life of JFK, his experiences in WW11, his time in the white house, and of course his reputation as a playboy. However, I certainly am highly skeptical of the “official” story that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, just wanting to kill Kennedy, really because he was an angry man and his wife wouldn’t take him back (they were separated) and this is the line the book seems to take, that Oswald was the lone assassin.  Nevertheless, it was still a good and interesting read.

Little Women of Baghlan

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Once upon a time I dreamed of adventure and travelling to distant lands.  Who knows, maybe I will one day.  In the meantime, I read about such stories.  Little Women of Baghlan: The Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban is  a true account  about  a young American woman, Joanne Carter, a registered nurse, who in 1968 joins the Peace Corps and travels to Afghanistan, where she works for two years in rural Afghanistan at a hospital and teaches nursing to a group of young women, some only teenagers. Jo is ably assisted by Nan and Mary, a lab technician and another RN. Together they face trials and tribulations, in a country where health services are backward and women are second class citizens, most barely able to read and write.  Despite their hardships,  they are accepted into village life and are treated like family by many of the local folk in the area they live.

There is not much about nursing for the first half of the book,  it is more about joining the Peace Cops, travelling to a distant country and adjusting to a completely different way of life.  The second half of the book is then about the hospital, teaching “Jo’s Girls” and of general life in Baghlan.  It’s an interesting and enjoyable read, part travelogue, part work/life experience and part history.

Every now and then I read a book that gives me pause for reflection. This is one of them.  It makes me grateful for many things.  That I received a decent education, and I can read write.   That I was able to enter the vocation I chose.  That as a woman, I was free to marry for love, and not married off to a man twice (or even thrice) my age.  Simple things that many of us take for granted sometimes.

Little women of bhag

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