BY KATE DENNILL
Old Fashioned by Rene Gutteridge 5
The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis 6
Kreatiewe Inkleurboek vir Grootmense 3 6
The Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith 8
The words “novelisation of the motion picture” on the front of a book always feel like adding salt to your dish at a Michelin three-star restaurant. It’s just not right. But the reality is that there is a new trend and Old Fashioned (the novel) is based on the eponymous script by Rick Swartzwelder. A reformed party boy turned antique shop owner and a nomadic, colorful but somewhat baggage-bearing young lady’s lives intersect in small-town America. They both have strong and completely different ideologies regarding relationships and commitment with understandably mixed results. Rene Gutteridge has developed a gentle, fun romantic read, but it doesn’t quite achieve the depth and layers some readers may hope for in a novel.
The fascination of one culture with another appears to have created a very successful book writing career for Beverley Lewis. She generates copious novels about Amish and Mennonite characters, and this latest offering, The Love Letters, continues that trend. There’s a strong storyline in which a young Amish woman, Marlena, takes on her estranged sister’s baby while she is in hospital following a serious car accident, as well as looking after her recently widowed grandmother. The Pennsylvanian backdrop is lovingly described and curated. Issues of differences in new and old interpretations of the accepted belief system are sensitively explored in parallel with the strain that distance and childcare is putting on Marlena’s relationship with her fiancé. While the threat of the now cherished baby’s departure looms, Marlena must find the courage to be true to herself and her faith. Lewis apparently grew up in Pennsylvania and her deep love for the area as well as the Amish and Mennonite folk who live there is evident in this novel. An undemanding, enjoyable read.
Fortunately, colouring in is not language-specific – apparently Kreatiewe Inkleurboek vir Grootmense 3 is available as The Gorgeous Colouring Book for Grown-ups 3 as well. In the quest to rediscover or nurture your inner child, there is a lot to be said for picking up a crayon or a pen and mixing and matching colours to create your own unique design. With over 100 pages of designs ranging from the botanical to the geometrical, one is spoilt for choice. The pages are thick but unfortunately do leak colour when multiple layers of ink are applied. For this reason, the designs would probably also not support paints. However, any type of crayon or colored pencils will keep you engrossed for hours and hours until neglected family members start making unhappy noises about delayed meals. Definitely to be locked away until your tax return is filed.
The Crimson Cord, the opener in Jill Eileen Smith’s latest series Daughters of the Promised Land unpacks the story of Rahab’s life. There is a delicate art to expanding a biblical narrative, and Smith has taken pains to stay true to the original text while fleshing it out with historically appropriate detail. Rahab is an intriguing character who plays a key role in the Israelite’s preparation for the conquering of Jericho, a city that had never previously been taken. In a tale of extraordinary redemption she becomes part of holiest of lineages, an unlikely role for a women who is introduced as a prostitute. There is no doubt that life was challenging at best for women in this segment of history, where society afforded very little protection if they had lost that of their family or husband for any reason. Smith’s travels in the Holy Land have certainly paid dividends, but the outstanding feature of the book is the obvious and deep passion she feels for the protagonist. Rahab’s story is treated with a compassion and sensitivity that makes for a compelling read, leaving one slightly bereft at the end. Highly recommended.