Two books I have read recently are Being Kari and Being Lily by Qarnita Loxton.
Though I read them in reverse to the order in which they were written, Lily before Kari, it didn’t matter at all as each story can stand alone.
Few things I want to say about them here as many thoughts have stayed with me since reading these two works of seemingly ‘effortless’ writing though of course, most writers (and readers) should know that writing books is the absolute antithesis.
Those thoughts are these:
Fiction is a wonderful tool for telling a story about things which affect our daily lives as humans where we interact with one another in absolute ignorance of knowing really anything about each other.
More so, the case when those people are from completely different backgrounds to your own. A fact which has always intrigued me is how quickly we all judge. Me included. I judge all the time. In fact, I can just about sum up someone in a few flat seconds, judging just by the botox above their brow or the way they greeted me.
Perhaps the part of us that is most similar, in amongst all our diversity, is our pattern of assessment of each other starting- always- with the physical and then reacting to the verbal.
If someone looks slovenly, we assume neglect, disinterest or unfortunate circumstance. In contrast, the well-healed with the Gucci bag hoisting herself into the black German sportscar clutching her skinny hot cappuccino is usually the butt of envy, resentment, disdain and dislike in equal amounts. Her privilege offends the middle class and we decide we don’t like her. Not one bit. The one in the black burkha? Intriguing? Unsettling? Or just unfamiliar?
And when they start talking, the accent says it all!
Identity politics, cross -over of cultures, love interests and long- term commitments with an intersecting of friends and blended family all make for a marvellous book (or books!)
Enter the world of fiction and all this is hidden in the story and in character. And Loxton has created a wonderfully readable and page turning ‘chick-lit’ cast of characters which address all this and more.
In Being Kari, (Kharnita in her ‘old life’ in Walmer Estate) meets and marries Dirk, the warm and lovable Afrikaner who, on Valentine’s eve has one- night stand and well, you can imagine what happens next. At the same time, Kari’s estranged brother calls to tell her of grandmother’s death, and this sets the scene for family reconnections and disclosures of all kinds of past irreconcilables and the value of love and friendships across cultures. I absolutely loved Kari and her sister -in law Shireen, and the close- knit group of Shelley, Lily, Dianne and Owen.
In Being Lily, we delve into the life of blended families and the dreaded ‘ex’ and learn how these friendships help to hold it altogether.
Loxton’s dialogue, setting and characterization had me breezing through both books and I have renewed respect and interest in reading South African fiction when I’ve exhausted myself on all my usual non-fiction reads and writes.
Cannot wait to meet Shelley properly (Being Shelly is due out in November and then hopefully Di sometime soon after that!