SOUL SISTERS by Lesley Lokko (Macmillan £16.99, 432 pp)
by Lesley Lokko (Macmillan £16.99, 432 pp)
I love LL’s glamorous blockbusters with their unusual settings and international sweep.
Here, red-headed Scot Jen and black South African Kemi have grown up together and are closer than sisters. But their relationship is strained after both fall for the same man.
Solam (the man) is a crazily handsome, ruthlessly ambitious black South African politician bent on the presidency; there’s no one he won’t exploit to get it, Jen and Kemi included.
The action moves between 1990s London, where Kemi is a brain surgeon and Jen a gallery assistant, to a Johannesburg rebuilding itself in the early days of Mandela. The story confused me at times, but the period is wonderfully evoked and the characters are skilfully drawn, especially Kemi and her doctor colleagues.
THE BLACK DRESS
THE BLACK DRESS by Deborah Moggach (Headline £16.99, 288 pp)
by Deborah Moggach (Headline £16.99, 288 pp)
Middle-class, middle-aged, north London-living Pru is heartbroken after her husband dumps her.
The eponymous frock of the title, spotted in a charity shop, gives her an idea. She will gatecrash funerals and pick up widowed men. But this plan runs out of steam after a tragic encounter.
When she meets macho builder Calvin in a dentist’s waiting room, Pru’s romantic life takes a different direction. Calvin, however, might not be all he seems.
Always in the background is Pru’s offbeat single best friend Azra, the Louise to her Thelma. But has Azra got another agenda as well?
I found the plot a bit hit and miss. But, as ever with Moggach, the joy is in her witty observations of middle-class life and bracingly tart portrayal of family relationships.
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Richard Roper (Orion £14.99, 384 pp)
by Richard Roper (Orion £14.99, 384 pp)
This rather heartbreaking depiction of friendship slips back and forth in time and between two narrators.
Theo and Joel were best buddies and aspirant comedians before a tragic accident divided them and they went their separate ways: Joel to TV writing fame and Theo to frustrated obscurity.
But then an unexpected life event forces a reconciliation in the form of a walk along the Thames Path. This has awful consequences of another kind.
It’s a beautifully written comedy with strong Withnail And I overtones and dwells on powerlessness, whether at the hands of school bullies or violent adults at home, professional failure and, most of all, health. Theo’s heroic sister Alice was the stand-out character for me.
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