Top Ten Tuesday 10 Books set in South Africa

Posted June 23, 2020 by elzaread in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

It’s Tuesday and we’ve been playing around with this week’s prompt for 
Top Ten Tuesday for a couple of days now. “Pick a past TTT topic you’ve done and re-do/update it”. My mommy’s been strolling down memory lane, aka Mareli Thalk Ink, searching for a previous post that we can use and link up with That Artsy Girl, our lovely host for this weekly feature. 

We are from the land way down there on the southern most part of Africa, South Africa. We live in a picturesque coastal town, called Jeffreys Bay. Our hometown is one of the five most famous surfing destination in the world and hosts the annual World Surf League surfing event at Super Tubes during July. It’s better known as the Corona Open. Rather ironic, don’t you think? And I have no idea what that actually means. I haven’t even been born last July and so far, nothing much except the world wide Lock Down is occurring here or on our beautiful beaches.

But we are still reading. And we are still proudly South African. So let’s share 10 books set in South Africa with you today. Mommy has made a few tweaks and add-on’s and she even listed the books according to genres, to make it easier for you to chose according to your preference. South Africans are nothing if not hospitable and extremely generous, so you are welcome!
1. Historical Fiction 


The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert The story starts in Poland as WWII draws to a close. The young Gretl (Grietjie in Afrikaans) is the only survivor after the Polish Resistance blows up a German train. She is rescued by Jakob (who was part of the blow-up gang) and for three years he takes care of her. But she couldn’t stay with him forever and when German orphans were promised new futures in bright and sunny South Africa, Jakob puts her on a train (again). Gretl was placed with a lovely family and a black madonna. This novel is definitely one of my top 5 favorite WWII novels. 

All the novels written by Irma Joubert is like a wonderful history lesson, unfortunately, this is the only one you will find translated in English. You are of course welcome to do a quick course in Afrikaans, our native tongue. You can contact my mommy. That is what she actually does for a living. 

2. Crime/Thriller


Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer Meet Inspector Bennie Griesel. He’s not your hero-type detective. In fact, his best years are behind him and he drowned most of them in a bottle. But he’s clever and always one step ahead. Until he meets his match in a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy. This is by far my favorite Deon Meyer novel and I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller. 

In fact, I will strongly recommend Mr Meyer’s books to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted crime novels with an unlikely unlikable lead detective. If you are looking for a stand alone, do try Fever. Yes, it does come with chills and thrills.

3. Cozy Mystery 


Recipes for love and murder by Sally Andrew Be prepared, my mommy will go on and on about this book and the whole series. It is cleverly witty and such a wonderful reflection of South Africa and our quirks and delicious cuisine. Can’t you smell the bobotie and vetkoek and melktert? This book is really my favorite cozy mystery. 

Meet Tannnie Maria: she is short and soft with brown curls and untidy Afrikaans. She is also the agony aunt (the “dear Abby” Tannie) for the local paper, the Klein Karoo Gazette. One day, her life takes a sinister turn when a woman in the area is murdered and she becomes entangled in the investigation – to the intense irritation of a handsome local policeman.

She is also the best cook I have ever heard of. She has a recipe for just about everything under the sun – even murder. I’ll say it again: If you don’t want to read this book, buy borrow or steal it anyway – the included recipes are to die for. 

4. Quirky humor


The Girl who saved the king of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson Nope, not a South African author. And the whole novel also doesn’t take place in South Africa, just the first halve. The story opens in 1961 with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in Soweto, South Africa. Although she was statistically destined for a short and hard life, it did appear as if the odds were ever in her favour. Yes, she was black and a girl. She was also ran over by a drunken engineer and forced to work for the brandy-soaked head of a top secret South African project.

 BUT Nombeko was clever and smart enough to make a fool of her oppressor who was less than smart. In fact, he has made a rather troublesome mathematical error. Nombeko knows about Engineer van der Westhuizen’s small counting problem and uses her wit and intelligence to outsmart the engineer and two Mossad agents and escape to Sweden. Due to a mixup caused by three Chinese sisters who were in charge of postal services at Pelindaba, she also ended up with the wrong package on arrival at the Swedish embassy. 

This is the second novel by the Swedish author Jonas Jonasson and I enjoyed it even more than The hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. 

5. Classical Adventure 


King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard Did you know: When Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was first published, H. Rider Haggard made a 5 shilling bet that he could write a better adventure novel.

In 1885, Haggard published “the most amazing story ever written”. It became one of the best selling novels of the nineteenth century. It is the first English novel set in Africa and is considered to be the genesis of the Lost World literary genre.

This novel tells of the search by sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and the narrator, Alan Quatermain, for Sir Henry’s younger brother, George. He has been lost in the interior of Africa for two years in the quest for King Solomon’s mines. The legendary source of the Biblical king’s enormous treasures. The three companions encounter fearful hardships, fierce warriors, mortal danger and the sinister and deadly witch, Gagool. Quatermain tells the tale of their struggles through unmapped Africa with touches of humour and excitement. 

Mommy says that this book was one of her favorite reviews and she needs to upload it again. Just give me a day or two. I’ll scratch and whine until she has it done.

6. Urban Fantasy

7163862Zoo City by Lauren Beukes Not my reading preference at all. But this was a really good novel by South African author, Lauren Beukes. In a kind of dystopian Johannesburg (although I didn’t think it was an “alternate reality” Joburg can be a bit of a jungle) Zinzi December has a sloth on her back, a dirty 416 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. When an old lady turns up dead, Zinzi is forced to take on her least favorite kind of job – missing persons. Her ticket out of Zoo City might be finding a teenage pop star for music producer Odi Huron. Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the mop of a city twisted by crime and magic where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own. The characters in this novel are very well portrayed, even the animals. The only truly negative thing was that there were quite a couple of lose threats. Hope to see a sequel sometime soon! (still no sequel)

7. Adult Fiction

26031471Entertaining Angels by Marita van der Vyver This book was one hell of a shock to the South African-Afrikaans-Protestant community. Ever heard the word “taboe”? It roughly translates to everything-one-should-not-talk about. You only whisper it, very softly, in a dark dark room. 

Following the trauma of numerous miscarriages, the death of her baby and the collapse of her marriage, Griet Swart contemplates suicide. But a strategically placed cockroach brings her attempt to an abrupt end. Holding on to her sense of humor and supported by her family, friends, co-workers and therapist, Griet starts to rebuild her life. At her therapist’s suggestion, she starts writing about her experiences and she reflects on these experiences through the age-old fairy tales that she loves so much.  As she processes her feelings through her writings, she finds unexpected (and rather explicit) liberation in Adam, an erotic and free-spirited surfer who literally arrives on her doorstep. Although her life is no fairy tale, Griet still holds out hope of finding her prince, or at least a happy ending. 

My mommy has read this book a couple of times already. Maybe it’s time for a re-read. Once again.  

8. Science Fiction

18453110The Three by Sarah Lotz and Day Four by Sarah Lotz Easily two of the weirdest books I’ve read. But I couldn’t put it down! It was glued to my hand until it was finished. At 03:00 in the morning. Yes, I did woke my husband up. This book needs to be discussed and figured out. It is written by a South African author and only one of the planes crashed in South Africa. Oh am I jumping ahead here? Here’s the Goodreads blurb for the first one (because I just can’t explain it AT ALL): 

Four simultaneous plane crashes. Three child survivors. A religious fanatic who insists the three are harbingers of the apocalypse. The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. There doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.  

Weird. Even the writing style of this novel was weird. Best way to describe it: Do you remember the couple of weeks and months after 9/11? All known media, conversations and thought were consumed by this event. Same with this novel. It did feel as if you are reading “The Times”, watching CNN, following twitter and Facebook and going to church! There wasn’t that much of a story, it was more a portrayal of events and the aftermath. 

The sequel is just as weird, but just as unputdownable.

9. Academic Fiction 

1076561Circles in a Forest by Dalene Matthee I don’t think there are many South Africans out there who haven’t read this book. Mainly because it was the prescribed literature for Grade 11/12 for years and years. In fact, I am convinced that some schools still read “Kringe in ‘n bos” (Afrikaans translation). I know a number of guys who will state this as their favorite book (because it is the only book they have ever read). I’ve read many many many books after reading this in Grade 11 and I still say it is one of the best written novels I’ve ever read.

The Knysna Forest: a primal world of strange beauty and hidden dangers, of secrets shrouded beneath the canopy of towering trees (these trees truly are enormous). Where for centuries, the only sounds were the songs of birds and the trumpeting of the magnificent elephants. Until man arrived to claim for himself the rare wood of the trees, and the rarer ivory of the elephants’ tusks. (Goodreads)

10. Classic/Animal/Adventure

Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick In my opinion, this is the most epic South African novel ever written and one of the best animal classics. I don’t even know where to begin telling you about this book. We’ve grown up with this dog. There are numerous statues, streets, illustrations and movies in honor of Jock (of course he is a household name) in South AfricaThis is the great heart of Africa. 

Is any further introduction necessary? Even I, a silly little kitten, will nod in acknowledgement of the legend of Jock of the Bushveld. This is the great heart of Africa. 
And there’s my mommy’s ten favorite books set in South Africa. Have you read any of these? 
Have a wonderful week and we are going to do some blog hopping now to see what books are on your Top Ten Tuesday today.
Lots of love,

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17 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday 10 Books set in South Africa

  1. I should bookmark this page since I am always looking for new books set in Africa which aren't about death and destruction. I just finished HUM IF YOU DON"T KNOW THE WORDS which is set in South Africa before the end of apartheid. I liked it a lot. Thanks for visiting my blog. I think I will add the King of Sweden book. I love quirky books.

    • I have Hum if you don't know the words on my TBR list and on my kindle, but haven't read it yet. Need to though. I lived through that time period, so it's always interesting reads.

      The King of Sweden is wonderfully quirky!!

  2. How interesting. As I already said on my blog, I need to read more about Africa, so this is a great list. I haven't read any of them.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT earlier.

    • Oh, I'm not. I have read about Africa and always think it's fascinating. I am lucky to live in a country where they translate a lot of books from other languages, as well, so I have a wide choice. Not that it always helps. LOL

  3. I don't know that I've ever read a book set in South Africa, so this is an awesome list for me.

    I love the Lost World genre so Haggard's book is definitely appealing to me.

    • South African authors are unfortunately just a small drop in a very vast ocean of excellent authors.

      Thanks for returning the favor!

  4. Great list! I'd love to read a book by a South African author. I live in the Netherlands, and I just discovered that I can borrow a lot of these books at my library. At my next visit I'm definitively going to look for a book by Irma Joubert (many of them are translated to Dutch)

    • Hi Anouk! Oy yes, that's true, I forgot that Irma Joubert travels to the Netherlands quite regularly. Do try to get your hands on one of her books. It really is worth the read!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I love this list. I have not read a single one of these books. Oh dear. Before I die, I hope to read an adult book and a children's book from each country of the world. The ones I have read from South Africa are Disgrace (adult) and Journey to Jo'burg. I plan to read Jock as it is on my 1001 Children's Books You Must Read list and now I've also added Recipes for Love and Murder. Thank you for this wonderful list.

    • That is quite the challenge to read a book from every country… I do plan on doing an around the world in 80 books challenge next year, no idea how I will get it right though. But let's dream big!

      Jock of the Bushveld is a must….Hope you get to it soon!