Book Review: London Cape Town Joburg by Zukiswa Wanner


As the title suggest this novel takes place over three cities; London, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The story follows Germaine Spencer a British woman who is a lecturer and a ceramist and Martin O’Malley who is a black South African trying to make it as an Investment Banker in London. The two meet after Germaine is dared by her friend to talk to Martin. Martin is immediately enamored by Germaine.

At the beginning of the book, Germaine Spencer tells us that her 13-year-old son is dead by suicide. Why?

The story is told through the perspectives of Germaine and Martin O’Malley from when they meet and fall in love. They fall deeply for each other very quickly and Martin quickly proposes to Germaine once he realizes that she is the one for him. They get married a few years later and later have a child.

They decide to move to Cape Town once they have a child in order to be closer to Martin’s family. In Cape Town, they are able to settle down and even do well. Germaine gets involved in the community by starting an income generating project for the women in the township. However, eventually, Martin starts to get restless in his job. His brother offers him a chance to head his holding company in Johannesburg. This is when they decide to move to Johannesburg to start a new life there.

Zukiswa captures the political climate in South Africa after the apartheid and the political feelings and inclinations of the people. The racial tensions that still exist in South Africa after the apartheid are very clearly put through Martin’s brother, Liam.  The book also covers the difficult themes of family, betrayal and child abuse. Martin and Spencer are surrounded by family and very well supported. However, what do you do when the family you trusted and rely on betray you?

The book will take you through an emotional journey. The beginning of the book is sad where Germaine and Martin are trying to deal with the death of their son and confronting the guilt they both feel because they think that they are responsible for their son’s death. Germaine and Martin’s love story is also very compelling and beautifully told.

Zukiswa Wanner is a prolific South African writer. She has written several books including; ‘The Madams’, ‘Behind every Successful Man’, ‘Maid in SA: 30 ways to Leave Your Madam’, ‘Jama Loves Bananas’ and ‘Refilwe’. She also co-authored Nelson Mandela’s biography, ‘8115: A prisoners home’. Zukiswa now lives in Nairobi with her child and husband. You can learn more about her here.

The story is told in a very easy and light way despite the heavy themes in it. I read it in one weekend and I had a hard time putting the book down. Even when I had to put it down it was on my mind.

You can find the book at the Magunga Bookstore which is online or Prestige Book Shop which is on Mama Ngina Street in Nairobi CBD. The book cost about Kshs. 1190.

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