A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

Most literary works about Rwanda, both fiction and non-fiction, focus on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. There are very few books which don’t have those atrocities at the centre of their narratives (although I have read a couple: Roz Carr’s memoir and Gaile Parkin’s feel-good novel). However, it’s not at all surprising as these events are still haunting every Rwandan – I don’t think there is one national of this country who was not affected by it. Everyone here lost someone in the 1990s. Canadian journalist and author Gil Courtemanche arrived in Rwanda shortly after the Genocide but in his first novel, first published in Canada in 2000 (the English translation came out in 2003), he managed to recreate the horrible events in such a convincing way that it reads like a very moving memoir.  Continue reading “A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche”

Garden of the Plagues by Russel Brownlee

I can’t remember where or when I got this book, but most probably at some charity sale in Pretoria as it cost me only R30 (about $2), according to the sticker. I do remember that the title caught my attention, and then the recommendation blurb from Andre Brink, one of South Africa’s greatest writers. But it sat on the shelf for a couple of years, and I finally decided to read it during my recent holidays in South Africa. I thought I’d try this concept of reading a book about a place I’m visiting, so I took “Garden of the Plagues” and “Heartland” by Jann Turner, both of which are novels set in the Cape but their contexts are quite different. The latter tells a great story of love, friendship and historical change as South Africa faces the new dawn after the fall of apartheid (and I’ll post a review later). Brownlee’s book is set in the 17th century though, at the start of European colonisation of this part of the world, and I found his portrayal of this period quite fascinating. Continue reading “Garden of the Plagues by Russel Brownlee”