Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Salt & Honey by Candi Miller



This is a beautiful written, powerful portrayal of Southern Africa in the middle of the Twentieth century, when apartheid was warping the morals of ordinary people. Koba is a sensitive young girl from a Kalahari desert tribe, a member of the Ju/hoansi, or the harmless people, in her own tongue. Her hunter-gatherer life, of family and tribe and ancestors, is torn apart when her parents are murdered by white Boer hunters in front of her. The very men who slaughtered her parents then take her away from her desert home, to live in exile alongside a white family - Marta Marais, her husband Deon and her son Mannie.

I was swept up by Koba's story. Her journey into and out of exile, with the different types of love that develops with the Marais family, is gripping. The book was literally unputdownable. Miller spent a decade researching and living the Ju/hoansi, and her dedication has paid off. This book is full of issues - apartheid, violence, politics - yet is so deftly written that the issues never get in the way of the story and the characters.

I studied a San tribe in an anthropology class as a teenager, so I knew a little about the culture and beliefs. However, I'd never considered their place in the apartheid system and entering this world through fiction was, in a way, more rewarding for me. The desert, its plants and animals, the stars and sky, was made alive to me in a way that a text book alone just can't do. So I'm planning on sending a copy to my old anthropology teacher. And I'm planning to give a copy to my sister (she's planning her honeymoon to South Africa and Namibia at the moment). In fact, I think I'll be recommending this book to all of the readers in my life!

Finally, I'd like to thank Juliet over at Musings from a Muddy Island for bringing this book to my attention. It was her great review (see here) that led me to this book and I'm so glad it did. It was also the gorgeous cover, as good cover design can often sway me.

10 comments:

Juliet said...

Phew! I'm sooooo pleased you enjoyed it!! We'll find out today whether it won the World Book Day competition.

Andi said...

I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds great! Gonna have to try to BookMooch it.

Logophile said...

J, thanks again for recommending this.

Andi, it's worth keeping an eye out for this - the joys of bookmooch!

kiganda skunk said...

From the way you tell it, I'm sure I'll look out for it...its always refreshing to come across a book that drowns you so hard when you come to, you cannot remember whether you were part of history or the real world.....

verbivore said...

Oh wow, this sounds like something I need to read. Especially as I work through Gordimer it would be nice to have another perspective on South African history (not that hers isn't varied but still).

Table Talk said...

I had the pleasure of hearing Candi Miller talk about this book when it was first published and about the very long gestation period it had as she struggled to bring the story to the reader in exactly the way she wanted. I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much.

orchidus said...

Wow! Sounds like an amazing read. I have to start reading up on books in South Africa. I am really curious to know about their history. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. :]

Logophile said...

Kiganda Skunk, it is such a pleasure to be swept away in a story, part of why I love to read!

Verbivore, the place of the San, as "wild" people, within the warped apartheid system was unknown to me. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts (I've got my first Gordimer coming up soon and am looking forward to it!)

Table Talk, you are very lucky! I think the gestation is apparent, in that the style is thoughtful, considered in a way that only time can give you. I would love to hear her speak of her experiences!

Orchidus, there are so many interesting South African authors, and I do recommend this one for giving such a varied perspective.

tumwijuke said...

"Salt and Honey"

What a beautiful title. I had never heard of the book before. Thank you for reviewing it and bringing it to our attention.

Oh ... and thank you for visiting my page.

Now, I'm off to beg, cajoule and bully Kampala's bookstore owners into selling more books on Africa.

tracy said...

Ooowww! This sounds so wonderful. I am adding it to my list! Thanks for the great review!