gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

The Imagined Child


After reading the wonderful Ms Conception by Pamela Power, I tried to go back to my Man Booker reading. I downloaded the Kindle sample of The Testament of Mary, and all I can say is thank goodness for kindle samples, because religion and suffering and torture is not really my idea of a fun read, so I abandoned that. (Not to say it wasn’t well written. It was.)

Bookclub arrived, and I found myself finally in possession of The Imagined Child by Jo-Anne Richards. This is a local author of some renown, and I have enjoyed her work before but haven’t read her for ages.

And what a treat it was! The story is about Odette, a woman so full of denial and dread, that she runs from her life in Johannesburg to a small Karoo town, thinking that she can escape her problems. It comes as no surprise to any of us over 18 that she can’t – but the surprises lie in exactly how thoroughly her problems chase her down! The cast is a lovely set of recognisable South African types without being at all predictable. (I was briefly a bit thrown – the police detective in this novel bears an uncanny resemblance to the private detective in my own novel! They MUST be related.) The twists and turns keep you reading, and although the conclusion is in retrospect so obvious, I didn’t see it coming AT ALL. Which means that she has perfectly sewn the clues, without giving it away. Now that is a skill.

The writing is easy and feisty and refreshing. I loved it. I am not 100% sure if a person not from South Africa will “get it” at quite the level that a South African will. But the story is a universal one, and the basic politics the universal politics of small towns. So I highly recommend this read.

I’ll end this review with my current top recent South African books:
• If you are only going to read one SA writer, well obviously you must read me. What do you think this is? Of course I’m the best.
• Once you have read and enjoyed my writing:
– For a lyrical and literary joy – Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok
– For a memoir that can stand its own anywhere – Endings & Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi
– For a laugh a minute – Ms Conception by Pamela Power
– For an all-round robust read – The Imagined Child by Jo-Anne Richards

The next book on my list is also a SA writer, and I find myself a bit wary. My last two were so good, can this next one possibly compete. I’m reading a light Katie Fforde to clear my palate first. But if you hear nothing more about it, I didn’t enjoy it, because I book-blog on the basis that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. But maybe, I will have the great joy of adding to the list above.


3 thoughts on “The Imagined Child

  1. ” feisty and refreshing” describes the author very well. I have read Jo-Anne’s first four books and loved them. Her latest book is not available yet in Canada. I think it is very possible for people outside of South Africa to really enjoy South African books. I would recommend any novel that Jo-Anne writes.

  2. Years ago, as a student, I had a South Africa reading phase. I was swept away by many of the finest writers – so I am delighted to have discovered this blog and a window into more contemporary reads.

    • It is so lovely to hear that people do indeed HAVE South African reading phases . . . and I hope you enjoy anything that you try at my recommendation (the pressure!!) I do blog about non-SA stuff a lot (especially with this Man Booker reading kick I am on) but am also making an active attempt to read more SA myself so there’ll definitely be more!

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