Breath-taking, enchanting, magical, wild – these are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of South Africa. Now I will be the first to admit that I am a little biased. Having lived in Johannesburg for the greater part of my life, I am definitely one of South Africa’s biggest fans.
It is hard to replicate the beauty and majesty of this country but with a little ingenuity, some well-written literature and some tasty treats, it’s possible to transport your book club to the wilds of South Africa.
First up, our picks for what to read:
Seven Days by Deon Meyer
“I’ll shoot one policeman every day, until you arrest the murderer of Hanneke Sloet,” says the e-mail to the South African Police Services. And then the sniper turns threat into reality.
- “Just as the works of James Ellroy and Carl Hiaasen dig beneath the glitter of Hollywood and South Beach, respectively, to reveal a nasty, fetid underside, these books rip away images of the Sahara and safaris and go beyond nightly news pictures of deprivation.” —The Washington Post
The Water Man’s Daughter by Emma Ruby-Sachs
The violent death of a Canadian water company executive in a black township of Johannesburg throws together a South African anti-privatization activist and the water executive’s daughter, Claire, who arrives suddenly from Canada desperate to understand her father’s death. The murder investigation — led by an officer who is finding her own loyalties increasingly unclear — and Claire’s personal quest become entwined, and the young Canadian’s involvement with the activist brings her ever closer to a shocking truth she might not be able to bear.
Read an excerpt here.
Trackers by Deon Meyer
Lemmer’s First Law: Don’t get involved. But when Emma le Roux looks at him with pleading eyes, when the roof of his Karoo house needs big repairs, when the cause is good and just, laws can be broken. So he sighs, and says, yes, he’ll ride shotgun for two rare black rhinos. Bad decision. Because on a dark and dusty road in Limpopo, they stick a Smith & Wesson Model 500 against his head. They kick him and beat him, they lie, they deceive him, and they steal his Glock, the one with his fingerprints all over it. They should have killed him. And now he goes after them–the start of a trail of violence that will run the length and breadth of a country, and touch many lives.
Read an excerpt here.
Next, what tasty morsels to serve:
If you know anyone from South Africa, you’ll know that it’s a culture deeply rooted in its cuisine. It has many culinary influences ranging from Dutch to British to Indigenous to Indian.
To keep your fellow readers entertained as they arrive try serving biltong, a traditional beef jerky. It can easily be ordered online from many stores all over the world. Additionally, samoosas, spelled with two ‘o’s, are also a very popular appetizer and represent South Africa’s large Indian population.
If you’re hosting your book club meeting during the summer, boerewors, a type of sausage made from beef (sometimes with the addition of pork or lamb), is a great alternative to hotdogs. It can often be found at South African stores throughout North America. Alternatively, any sausage can represent boerewors at your meeting. Sasoties, known in North America as kebabs, are also popular.
To go with your South African braai (BBQ), serve a side portion of mealie-pap, a type of mash made of cornmeal. And for dessert, melktart is a personal favourite. It’s a milky, sweet, cinnamon-y pie. If you enjoy baking, there are many excellent recipes for melktart online.
Wash it all down with a lovely glass of South African Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and you’re set for a fruitful discussion.
Lastly, how to decorate:
South Africans are a very proud nation and they enjoy wearing their national colours. It’s not unusual to spot a South African sporting a national team jersey or another article of clothing showing their heritage. The South African colours come from the National flag and are green, blue, black, red, yellow and white. It’s easy to find items in any of those colours. If you’re crafty, print some South African flags and place them around the room. Their interesting design will add an exotic touch to your book club decor.
Finally, when celebrating South Africa it’s important to keep an ‘unwritten’ South African rule in mind – it’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with. So enjoy the company of your fellow book club members and don’t forget to mention a thing or two about the books!
Don’t miss last week’s stop in the land of milk and honey, make that milk and maple syrup…Canada!