The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg

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The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A beautiful but unsettling book set in pre-Zimbabwe Rhodesia. It ticks all Bookbag's boxes with its love of language, vivid voice of childhood, and underlying menace. Don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Virago
ISBN: 1844084647

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Nyree and her younger sister Cia live on the family farm in war-torn Rhodesia under UDI. Father is away fighting the Terrs and so the two little girls are in the hands of a loving but distracted mother, a maniacal grandfather on a rapid descent into alcoholism, and farm steward Jobe and his wife Blessing - munts to their grandfather, but Afs to Nyree and Cia.

They live a rich fantasy life in which western games blend with African rituals and a typically post-colonial rural life in which the vivid and beautiful African panorama is underlaid with harsh violence - both natural and human. It seems to Nyree and Cia as though things will continue forever, until, that is, their cousin Ronin arrives, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

I loved this book. It ticks all my boxes. I can't read enough about Africa, that most vivid of continents. Its wild extremes make fertile ground for fiction, and here Liebenburg makes the most of this juicy material, weaving layer upon layer of parallels between the landscape, the politics and the relationships - all of which are crumbling in menacing ways. I also love delicacy and beauty in form - when you read loll around lizardly on page two, you know you're in for a treat - but deep and dark thematic depth, which of course, makes yet more parallels. Nyree, as narrator, happily parrots the things she hears adults say - we don't tolerate slackers on this farm - but without the least idea of their significance.

But both Nyree and Cia immediately recognise the danger posed by Ronin, their illegitimate cousin, and are utterly tongue-tied by it, unable to articulate their fears to anyone but each other. And you know just as immediately, things cannot end well - for the little girls, for Rhodesia, and for this narrative.

It's a beautifully-written book, full of special moments of warmth, but with a sadness at its core, and it will stay with me for a very long time.

My thanks to the nice people at Virago for sending the book.

Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin is a non-fiction account of bloody times in Zimbabwe, and one of the most poignant memoirs I've ever read. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is a much lighter book, but paints an equally vivid portrait of Africa.

Booklists.jpg The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg is in the Top Ten Books About Africa.
Buy The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg at Amazon.com.


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