Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Away From The Dead by Karen Jennings

4 Star

Together the stories highlight facets of African society and in particular South Africa. Karen Jennings has a touching way of writing about the lives of the underdogs. The distinctions between the different layers in society are beautifully captured.

From Dark is a rallying call to remember that illegal mining causes the deaths of hundreds every year.  Zama-zamas (Zulu for ‘chancers’) live underground for months at a time, dying in police raids, fires, cave-ins and poor conditions.

Rebecca - 4 Star

Books of short stories are rarely something that I read, which is silly really as they probably suit my lifestyle better than novels. Post kids my days of being able to sprawl on the couch engrossed in a book for hours on end are long gone along with my ability to wear crop tops, and books that lend themselves to being read piecemeal in the brief few minutes I have between football practice and trampolining class, are probably more practical.

And I must say that Away From The Dead was perfect for this: a slim book I could whip out of my handbag, delve into for a brief few moments and feel transported into South Africa where many of the stories are set. I have been to South Africa once, and whilst this was a trip of a life time I was aware at the time that my experience was by no means typical of the day to day existence experienced by most of it's inhabitants and these stories give a voice to these people with great clarity and skill. Within a few sentences Jennings sets the scene and her characterisation is deft and feels authentic. In fact she is almost too good at this, too efficient and I found myself wanting the stories to last longer, to say and develop more. On several occasions I almost felt she was teasing me the reader, with a fantastic opening chapter to a story that never gets told.

Jennings is seriously talented and I would definitely read her next book but I just hope it's a novel...

Thank you to Holland Park Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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