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On Our Bedside Table: The Stories of Women

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On Our Bedside Table: The Stories of Women

Book Recommendations March 2022

Our Book Recommendations March 2022 are here.


Black Cake by Charmain Wilkerson

Reviewed by Zissy


Black Cake by Charmain WilkersonIn a Nutshell

When Eleonor Bennet dies, she leaves her estranged children Byron and Benny a peculiar inheritance.  First, there’s a voice recording where she shares the story of a young headstrong woman they’ve never heard of before, who escapes her island home under suspicious circumstances. Second, a traditional Caribbean black cake, a family recipe with a long history she instructs them to share. As the two siblings listen to their mother, they must grapple with a history that upends everything they thought they knew about their family and the rift that separated them for nearly a decade. Will they be able to fulfil their mother’s dying request and make amends so they can share the black cake she lovingly prepared for them?


Book Club Notes

This is the best book I have read thus far this year. the storyline is epic, and it is crafted in a way that completely absorbs you as the reader as you uncover each shocking layer. I was instantly drawn into this multi-faceted family and multi-generational tale. It’s one of those books that you don’t need to get into, you’re fully committed from the get-go. It is simultaneously juicy, twisty, and meaningful and had me so absorbed I could not put it down, staying up to get to the final page. It’s being turned into a TV series and I am hopefully optimistic that the show will be as brilliant as the book is.


A Line that Stuck with Me

You can’t win if you don’t play


The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

Reviewed by Feige


The Little Wartime Library by Kate ThompsonIn a Nutshell

In London 1944, while the world is still at war, Clara Button has created the country’s only underground library. Built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station, a whole community thrives here in a haven away from falling bombs. Together with her best friend and library assistant Ruby Monroe, they work hard to ensure the library is the heart of the underground, despite all the adversities they face.


Book Club Notes

It took a long time for this story to get going and for me to feel invested in it but eventually it piqued my interest. It is a sweet story that has an innocent youthful quality to it.


I was surprised to learn it was based on the true story of Bethnal Green’s library that did go underground during the war, and I enjoyed learning the real history which Kate Thompson provides at the end. Her commitment to research is evident.


This book is an ode to libraries, librarians and the power of books and reading. It’s not going to knock your socks off, or go down as the best book I’ve read, but it is an enjoyable read.


A Line that Stuck with Me

Life is full of choices. Most of them mundane and then one comes along, a choice so devastating, you scarcely know which way to turn.


Thursdays at Orange Blossom House by Sophie Green

Reviewed by Zissy


Thursdays at Orange Blossom House by Sophie GreenIn a Nutshell

Set in a small Australian town in 1993, this book weaves around the lives of three woman who become unlikely friends. There’s seventy-four-year-old former cane farmer Grace, who’s feeling like the best days of her life are over. Forty something high-school teacher Patricia who’s given up her dreams of travel after moving back home to look after her aging parents. Finally, there’s Dorothy, the youngest of the three, she’s been trying to have a baby for years and is struggling to accept that her dreams of becoming a mother may never happen. United by their weekly attendance at the Thursday evening yoga classes at Orange Blossom house and a desire to reconnect, they form a friendship that encourages each one to go after the things they truly want.


Book Club Notes

This is a heartwarming book that beautifully depicts female friendship and realistically portrays older women as multi-faceted and still very much living with challenges, hopes, dreams and successes.


I previously read The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green, a book I adored. Having read both, there’s unmistakable similarities – clearly reflective of the author’s style. Both revolve around a group of women of various ages who become friends through a form of exercise they take up. Both are set in small Australian towns in the 80’s and 90’s and speak a lot about women’s choices and doing things because that’s what’s expected of you. Both make the progress we’ve made when it comes to women’s empowerment and being more open seem quite enormous.


While Thursdays at Orange Blossom is an enjoyable read, I much preferred The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Circle. A preference ,that I’ve been thinking, may come down to my preference towards swimming over yoga. In both books, the form of exercise the women take up becomes a sort of therapy and becomes almost like the invisible friend. While I completely related to the swimming being something that can change you, I could not relate to yoga doing that. This book was full of anecdotes about yoga releasing emotions along with tight muscles – anecdotes I’ve heard in my years of doing yoga but have never, as much as I’ve tried, personally experienced. That bias aside, it is a good book – one you’d happily curl up with.


A Line that Stuck with Me

Yoga does not make you nice. It reveals more of who you are. It helps you shed the layers, my darling. Why should that mean you become nice? Nice only serves other people, not yourself.


The Journals of He: The Beginning by J.D. Kizza

Reviewed by Zissy


The Journals of He: The Beginning by J.D. KizzaIn a Nutshell

During a college tour at Wits University a freak accident in the library leads to a chance encounter between Dilia and a handsome stranger. That brief encounter is engrained in her mind as she heads back home to her little town in the Northwest Province. Two years later she finds herself back at Wits University studying nursing and it’s there that she lays eyes on the same handsome stranger that helped her all those years ago. The combination of university life and the mysterious man makes Dilia open herself up to new people and experiences, leaving the naivety of her previous life behind.


Book Club Notes

This book gave me major Fifty Shades of Grey vibes and not in a good way. Older experienced man with money – check. Younger naïve woman – check. A relationship that’s based off very little communication and actions that seem advantageous – check. I couldn’t get into the storyline or characters, found the relationship off-putting and felt the book dragged in places.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea. If you enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey and enjoy books with a very distinct South African flavor this may be a book you’d enjoy.


Echoes of the Mountains by Pindiwe Mgijima-Mabhena

Reviewed by Feige


Echoes of the Mountains by Pindiwe Mgijima-MabhenaIn a Nutshell

Echoes of the Mountain is Pindiwe Mgijima-Mabhena’s memoir. In it she tells the story of her family, the Transkei village of Matatiela, where she grew up and how the Apartheid struggle affected those closest to her.


Book Club Notes

I applaud anyone who has a personal story they want to share and follow that up with the guts and hard work to put pen to paper. It is so interesting and valuable reading about other people’s lives, upbringings, and realities and Pindiwe’s story is no exception. Through Pindiwe’s story we have the opportunity to learn more and view history through a different lens.


That being said, at times it felt like the book was written as a therapeutic exercise for herself and her family as a personal keepsake. I found myself wanting more structure to thread it all together.


A Line that Stuck with Me

I am afraid that our children, in this day and age, are more interested in what is going on in other countries via social media and do not know enough of their own history.


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