Book Reviews: Troubled Oceans, Or Don’t Let Go Of Wild Dogs

July 31, 2021

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By DRIES BRUNT, LISA WITEPSKI, BRUCE DENNILL

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

The Troubled Times Of Magrieta Prinsloo by Ingrid Winterbach

The End Of The Ocean by Maja Lunde

Wild As It Gets by Don Pinnock

Under Dogs: Man’s Best Friend From A Whole New Angle by Colin Crowdey

 

On the small volcanic island of Réunion, a French outpost in the Indian Ocean, a number of murders have the local police baffled and hunting for a suspect. The person who knows the layout of the island better than anyone else manages to keep ahead of the law in order to meet a mysterious contact who has information he desperately needs to prove his innocence and save his wife. The hunt takes readers through the island, seeing scenic beauty, meeting its people, getting to know its customs and enjoying the purity of life and climate of this little paradise that now shows its ugly dark side. The plot is loaded with intrigue, connecting with a mysterious drowning years back and there are many people involved one way or the other, which makes for an intricate storyline that needs continued vigilance to keep track of. In addition to the crime plot, Don’t Let Go serves as a kind of tourist guide, enticing readers to go and see this lovely island paradise for themselves. – DB

 

From the moment we’re introduced to zoologist Magrieta Prinsloo, the tangled spaghetti of her thoughts and emotions become our own, so vivid is Ingrid Winterbach’s writing. This doesn’t make for particularly comfortable reading. That moment of introduction takes place in Prinsloo’s science lab, where she is in the throes of a spectacular meltdown. This leads to numerous disconnects – most notably with her (soon to be ex-) boss and husband. Instead of moving on to more stable territory, Magriet takes a job with the Bureau for Continuing Education – an organisation headed by a man as inscrutable as its name. This is where Winterbach’s skill really comes to the fore. The reader feels the sense of unease that follows Magriet as she journeys to the Eastern Cape for work, shares with her the feeling that even innocuous everyday items like wheelchairs are overshadowed by something ominous and, like Magriet, finds portents in the most unlikely places. I was disappointed that this leaden, laden mood didn’t implode into a dramatic and devastating conclusion – but The Troubled Times Of Magrieta Prinsloo isn’t that kind of book. Rather, it’s a slice of life, a contemplation of the things that are gnawing at out edges of our society right now. Those who want a more fast-paced read may become frustrated, but if you’re looking for a solid piece of writing with a distinct (and highly enjoyable) local flavour, this might be the one you pick off the shelf. – LW

 

If you’re in an apocalyptic frame of mind – and who isn’t, at the moment – The End Of The Ocean isn’t likely to do much for your mood. It’s set in the days when we thought that water shortages, rather than viruses, were the greatest threat to humanity, and traces the journey of David and his daughter Lou as they search for the family they were separated from when an all-consuming fire broke out in their city. It’s a difficult and desperate read, taking you to the refugee camps of the future where water is a resource more precious than anything you could possibly imagine. It’s bound to make you feel thirsty and in dire need of a tall glass of something icy and refreshing – but, just before things get too bleak, the enigmatic Signe arrives in David and Lou’s lives, making for an unexpected ending. A fable at heart, The End Of The Ocean is starkly beautiful; a warning that comes wrapped in honey. It might be a bit uncomfortable to add to your lockdown reading list, but it’s also powerful and poignant. – LW

 

Don Pinnock’s interests are wide-ranging, and he’s had the opportunity, as a writer and editor for several publications, to travel extensively in the pursuit of developing those interests. Wild As It Gets collects a number of pieces of writing generated via those experiences in a small, dense volume that is intellectually edifying – fascinating, funny and occasionally moving. Collections of good short stories or essays are reliably satisfying, and this book is at least that. It also has, however, the added readability afforded by many of the pieces being very short, almost like a miscellany – brief, interesting perspectives among longer pieces that allow Pinnock to express his philosophies on conservation, the nature of humankind, tourism and more. He writes incisively, but with plenty of colour, providing his readers with an education as they are entertained. Recommended for travellers, animal lovers and fans of learning in general. – BD

 

The subtitle of Under Dogs: Man’s Best Friend From A Whole New Angle makes mention of an angle, and there really is only one. It’s a photographic collection by lensman Colin Crowdey, who has noted how besotted many dog owners are with their charges and linked their desire to see their pets captured on camera with an interesting artistic idea – photographing the animals from below as they stand, sit or lie on a glass screen. That’s it, though – that’s the book. The pictures are beautifully taken and edited, and  the dogs are cute, whether they’re particularly interested in the process or not. But to page through the whole of the short volume in a single sitting will remain the domain of devoted dog lovers or niche photography enthusiasts. A lovely idea, but for a very specific audience. – BD

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