Book Reviews: Let’s Read, Unashamed & Relationships Between Students And Spies

July 10, 2017



The Shark In The Dark by Peter Bently and Ben Cort / Marcello Mouse And The Masked Ball by Julie Monks / Monsters: An Owner’s Guide by Jonathan Emmett & Mark Oliver / A Squash And A Squeeze by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler                               6.5

Unashamed by Christine Caine                                                           7

The Truth About Relationships by Stefan Blom                                6

Student, Comrade, Prisoner, Spy by Bridget Hilton-Barber            8


A wonderful series aimed at young kids who can read but who are moving into that space where they’re confident and beginning to pick up momentum, the slim, compact Let’s Read books offer a range of warmth and wit. The Shark In The Dark is beautifully written, funny and fast-paced with a clever twist that teaches an important lesson. Marcello Mouse And The Masked Ball encourages little ones to be themselves in a creative way that involves Venice, mice and the possibility of being eaten. Monsters: An Owner’s Guide is a very different sort of story, taking the chaos of a Cat In The Hat-type intervention in a child’s life and mixing it with an illustrated manual, allowing little readers to interact with the narrative to some degree as they enjoy the fine detail of the drawings. A Squash And A Squeeze is yet another collaboration between children’s books superstars Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and is, short as it is, another major triumph, giving a genuine lesson in perspective to the reader not yet old enough to have developed such wisdom on their own. Buy them all – each will be re-read again and again. – BD


Christine Caine is the daughter of a Greek couple who emigrated to Australia. As a child she experienced the shame of being an outsider in a conservative society. Talented and hard-working, she did all she could to overcome the sense of rejection, but everything got muddled up to the point that she felt worthless. In addition she had been sexually abused from an early age, without her parents having any knowledge of this secret shame. She examines her own life and the lives of other women whom she has come to know, exploring the distinction between guilt and shame, looking at Biblical teaching, and finding understanding and freedom in the Christian faith. The distinction between shame and guilt is very often not understood, but when dealing with the problems of the sexually abused, prostitutes who are the victims of sex-trafficking and women in restrictive societies it is enormously significant. Unashamed is a deeply personal discussion, but in it Caine reaches out to many who will readily emphasise and many who it is hoped will find healing and wholeness. It is very practical, rooted in a sound exegesis of Scripture and filled with compassion. It is chiefly directed at women, cognisant of the hideous sins inflicted by society and by individual men. It deserves a place in any church library and is a useful book to pass on to anyone who has suffered as Christine Caine has. – RH


Reading The Truth About Relationships feels like being questioned by a psychologist about the way you handle your relationships. One learns that building and maintaining a relationship is a skill that can be improved, just like any other skill. The book tells what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. All of this is splendid advice but for me it seems a kind of wasted effort. Relationships, for me, are about loving, caring, showing understanding and compassion. I feel I do not need instructions about that. But think further. In a country with our mix of cultural traditions and tension between races, I realise this is a most important book to read, to learn how people of different backgrounds and lifestyles can live in harmony together. I do sense something very rich and valuable behind the message conveyed by Stefan Blom. For someone who realises his or her shortcoming in relating to other people, this book is a valuable guide towards improving your lifestyle skills. – DB


For Bridget Hilton-Barber, Student, Comrade, Prisoner, Spy is a very personal journey back in time, to the years 1982 to 1986, to a turbulent time as a student at Rhodes, studying journalism but becoming more and more caught up in the frenetic activities of the student resistance and the bigger political movements sweeping the Eastern Cape. Hilton-Barber reconstructs the life of a new undergraduate in the somewhat parochial city of Grahamstown, finding digs, finding new friends and establishing herself as an activist. Her memories are sharp, vivid and detailed. It is at times almost as if we are living in a carefully devised work of fiction, but of course it is no fiction, just the extraordinary reality of her fierce commitment. Her studies give her opportunity to see and analyse what is happening round her, and she is not simply an observer but a participant. The frenzied midnight work on publications, the intense debates, booze and cigarettes and camaraderie shift into another gear as she confronts the Special Branch and is caught up in the whirlpools of the comrades in the townships. Friends are arrested, detained, released. They learn in horror of the Cradock Four. Finally, Hilton-Barber is taken into detention. The great sorrow is learning that her closest friend and confidante is a spy for the Special Branch. The latter part of the book is her sojourn abroad, her return, the unbanning of the ANC and Communist Party, and her return to the events which were so much part of her life, first in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, then a revisiting of the Eastern Cape, including the prison in which she was detained. This book may not be everyone’s glass of wine, but I recommend it enthusiastically. It is strong stuff, but worth reading. – RH