Book Review: The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa

#Blessed

Bontle Tau is a fierce, beautiful, ambitious and street smart girl who uses her good looks and charm to secure a glamorous life from her blessers.

To keep the cash pouring in to maintain her lifestyle, she must maintain her physical appearance through beauty clinics and spas, be available when they want her and her heat button must always be ON. The expensive clothes, the penthouse in Sandton, VIP status in clubs, avalanche of expensive champagne, holiday trips and the luxury German machine she drives are all paid for by her looks and what she does with them.

She’s a not-so-academically-smart girl from Mamelodi with a dark family past and an unhealthy relationship with her ex, but she claims to be quite astute in what she calls MENcology. She’s also cunning and will go to great lengths for money and the things it buys. For a long time, she manages to maintain a sort of balance with more than two blessers and their demands.

The glamour starts to rust when the blesser she snatches from her friend enters her life, while her two other blessers have personal problems that wholly affect her opulent life. The family secret that’s long been buried comes out and her life takes on a chain of calamities.

The Blessed Girl delves deep into the blesser-blessee culture that appears so dazzling and desirable to many girls but has its downsides, much harsher for most than others. Through Bontle’s life, we see the depression, the drugs, and sacrifices that come into play in this kind of lifestyle. It also highlights the extreme things that young girls will do for this lifestyle when they don’t see any other option available.

There is also the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and it’s not just for the two parties, but also other blessees involved, as well as the spouses of these blessers. We also see how some families accept that kind of lifestyle because their daughters pay for that acceptance with money.

It’s a funny, simple and enjoyable read. If you’re South African or have been exposed to its culture you’ll enjoy it even better, because of the raw South African tone, lingo and characters. When I started the book, I felt the writing was dull and heavily laden with that South African attitude but as I went along I figured that it is part of the story’s makeup. It’s a very easy read, entertaining and insightful.

Title: The Blessed Girl

Author: Angela Makholwa

Published: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: General Fiction

‘Weep Not Child’ by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Is A Lens Into Kenya’s Tragic History

Njoroge is to begin school, something he has been longing to hear from his mother. The revelation gives him hope. The future promises to be bright, as the only one out of all the children he will be the one to use that tool to change their lives. Such a weighty responsibility on the shoulders of a child but he carries it well.

This is a time when boys and men had gone with the British to war against Hitler. Some of them died in the war, including one of Njoroge’s brothers, and some returned home changed. Ngotho, his father, has two wives, the youngest being his mother. Njoroge has always wanted to go to school like Jacobo’s children, and when he’s done maybe he’ll go overseas like one of them did. Jacobo is a rich man who owns the land that Ngotho lives on.

Ngotho works for Mr Howland, who owns the land that belongs to his ancestors. It is for this reason that he toils it with more than just drudgery. This is his way of holding on to his ancestors’ land and looking after it.

For Njoroge, learning will be his salvation. In a time when so much has been lost and each day is a struggle, education promises to be his key to changing his whole family’s situation. He progresses well, through a failed strike that changes his father and therefore his family. When Jacobo is killed, the family is dragged into chaos so abysmal and shattering that every bit of hope he had held on to is lost.

You cannot not weep when reading Weep Not Child. It’s so tense and so raw. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o wrote a mirror of Kenya at the time – the Mau Mau, the arrest of Jomo Kenyatta, the State of Emergency and all the crippling injustices that Kenyan people were subjected to.  

There is so much pain in this book, you can feel it. There is a reason Baba Ngũgĩ is respected in the literary sphere, not just in Africa but all over the world. He handles a story that is so big and so deep in an exquisite manner. It’s also short and written in a style that is undemanding to the reader, making it enjoyable and easy to absorb.

If you enjoy African fiction that serves as a lens into Africa’s history and the richness of its people and ways, you’ll enjoy Weep Not Child.