SEVEN CIRCUMSTANCES

Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

More Modern Fiction – Short Reviews

About these reviews

These reviews were written for Fair Lady Magazine, a South African women’s monthly magazine. The word limit was 125, occasionally expanded to 250. Often, the books were galley proofs or early editions. Some of these reviews have been updated with recent author information.

⭐️Good enough for the genre
⭐️⭐️ Very good
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Excellent – A keeper

⚡️Mediocre but there’s hope
⚡️⚡️Bad for any number of reasons
⚡️⚡️⚡️Ghastly – don’t read it

The-Troubled-ManThe Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell

⭐️⭐️

The Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (born February 3, 1948) died of cancer on 5 October 2015. His most famous creation was Inspector Kurt Wallander, who he actually killed off…(Continue reading…)


 

Devil’s Valley (Duiwelsvallei) by André P. Brink

Devil’s Valley, by André P. Brink
⭐️⭐️
After all these years, I still read him – in Afrikaans and English. Just the other day I took up Devil’s Valley again and enjoyed having my hair stand on end and my stomach churn. (Continue reading…)


Hollywood Wives, by Jackie Collins

Hollywood Wives, by Jackie Collins
⭐️
Would you admit you are a reader of Jackie Collins novels? Some would not. The highly successful Jacqueline Jill Collins OBE wrote about Hollywood…(Continue reading…)



Aphrodite’s War, by Andrea Busfield
⭐️⭐️
“People who have been to the brink of hell, don’t want to go over the edge.” (Continue reading…)


Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
⭐️⭐️⭐️
“At night they were visited with a plague of hail out of a faultless sky and the horses shied and moaned… while the hail leaped on the sand like small lucent eggs concocted alchemically out of the desert darkness.” (Continue reading…)


Crazy rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

⚡️⚡️
Even with Mandarin and Malay phrases thrown in to add authenticity, the plot is as thin as diet soup and the explanation for the romantic entanglement is, frankly, condescending. (Continue reading…)


An old Czech proverb goes: You live a new life for every new language you speak – If you know only one language, you live only once. This is precisely the problem when Kimberly Chang and her mother flee to New York from war-torn Hong Kong:- they cannot make a new life for themselves unless Kimberly masters English. Not only are they desperately poor, they are also marginalised and victimised because of their lack of English. Kimberly, who is smart as a whip, tells their story in a style so dry and factual that she seems as numbed by misery as a survivor of a concentration camp. This makes the moments when her enemies get their comeuppance worth waiting for and deliciously satisfying.

Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok

⭐️⭐️

You live a new life for every new language you speak – If you know only one language, you live only once. (Continue reading…)


Hollywood, by Charles Bukowski

Hollywood, by Charles Bukowski

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Do you remember in the movie Men in Black II where Agent J finds Agent K working for the US Post Office and all the workers turn out to be aliens? Well, Charles Bukowski must have known they were aliens back in 1971…(Continue reading…)


In the Company of Angels, by Thomas E. Kennedy

In the Company of Angels, by Thomas E. Kennedy

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Extract: “Then I confirmed that walls are broken with sighs / And that some doors to the sea are opened with words.” (Rafael Alberti) (Continue reading…)


Light Reading, by Aliya Whiteley

Light Reading, by Aliya Whiteley

⭐️

“Light Reading” is indeed light reading – an engaging romp of a weekend who-dunnit. (Continue reading…)


Moriarty, by John Gardner

Moriarty, by John Gardner

⚡️⚡️

It takes a special skill to avoid odious comparisons to the original author and Gardner does not always distinguish himself. (Continue reading…)


Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton

Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton

⭐️½

In Mr. Toppit Elton has created a fairy-tale within a tale, with suitably Grimm-like ominous overtones. (Continue reading…)


Red Lotus, by Pai Kit Fai

Red Lotus, by Pai Kit Fai

⚡️⚡️⚡️

By the end I had had an overdose of long philosophical, poetic ramblings and excessive romanticism. And frankly, I found it to be the most terrible tosh. (Continue reading…)


Revenge, by Sharon Osbourne

Revenge, by Sharon Osbourne

⭐️½

Yes, this is by the Sharon Osbourne, reality TV matriarch and successful music promoter, wife of Ozzie. (Continue reading…)


Sweet Temptation, by Lucy Diamond

Sweet Temptation, by Lucy Diamond

⭐️

At first glance Sweet Temptation looks like chick lit., and it is – that is her given genre in her Wikipedia entry – but it is not only that. (Continue reading…)


The Believers, by Zoë Heller

The Believers, by Zoë Heller

⭐️⭐️

The family members central to this novel are irritating and impossible to like, yet weirdly fascinating. (Continue reading...)


The Castle in the Pyrenees, by Jostein Gaarder

The Castle in the Pyrenees, by Jostein Gaarder

⭐️

The plot is about Steinn (a man) and Solrun (a woman) who were lovers for five years before they broke up after a traumatic incident. (Continue reading…)


The Consequences of Love, by Suleiman Addonia

The Consequences of Love, by Suleiman Addonia

⚡️½

The problem with this debut novel is that it is precisely what the title says it is: a story about the consequences of love. (Continue reading…)


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

⭐️⭐️½

His thrillers are deeply noir and gob-smackingly, hair-raisingly, stomach-clenchingly good. (Continue reading…)


The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, by Andrew O’Hagan

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, by Andrew O’Hagan

⭐️

This novel is enjoyable for mainly one reason – the narrator, Maf, is a dog. (Continue reading…)


The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite, by Beatrice Colin

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite, by Beatrice Colin

⭐️⭐️

From the first word to the last, it had me hypnotized with its precise, expressive language and unusual, complex plot. (Continue reading…)


The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell

The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell

⭐️⭐️

“What’s wrong with the Sweden of today?” (Continue reading…)


The Old Child and The Book of Words, by Jenny Erpenbeck

The Old Child and The Book of Words, by Jenny Erpenbeck

⭐️⭐️½

Both stories are superbly crafted and definitely classics in the making. (Continue reading…)


The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y.K. Lee

The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y.K. Lee

⭐️

In 1952, recently married ingénue Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong with her dull husband, and gets involved with the enigmatic chauffeur of the wealthy couple for whom she works as a piano teacher. (Continue reading…)


The Songwriter, by Beatrice Colin

The Songwriter, by Beatrice Colin

⭐️⭐️

If you want a read that will grip you to such an extent that you will slurp up every page and forget work and family, then get The Songwriter. (Continue reading…)


The Stepmother’s Diary, by Fay Weldon

The Stepmother’s Diary, by Fay Weldon

⭐️

Fay Weldon’s fiction is often about issues of feminism. (Continue reading…)


The Surrendered, by Chang -Rae Lee

The Surrendered, by Chang-Rae Lee

⭐️⭐️

This 469-page whopper should not be tackled on an empty stomach, not only because the main theme is hunger…(Continue reading…)


The Temple-goers, by Aatish Taseer

The Temple-goers, by Aatish Taseer

⭐️

Taseer dumps his readers headlong into the exotic, teeming morass that is Delhi, India…(Continue reading…)


The Unfixed Stars, by Michael Byers

The Unfixed Stars, by Michael Byers

⭐️⭐️½

In this novel, Byers depicts the suspenseful search for Planet X, the 9th planet in our solar system. (Continue reading…)


The Weekend, by Bernhard Schlink

The Weekend, by Bernhard Schlink

⭐️

Readers who appreciated The Reader (1995), by Schlink, would want to pick up this more recent novel. (Continue reading…)


To Love, Honour and Betray, by Kathy Lette

To Love, Honour and Betray, by Kathy Lette

⭐️

“All I do in my books is write down the way women talk when there are no men around.” (Continue reading…)


We Are All Made of Glue, by Marina Lewycka

We Are All Made of Glue, by Marina Lewycka

⭐️½

Lewycka has a truly original voice – quirky, unsettling, eyebrow-raising. (Continue reading…)