Cul de Sac – A memoir by Elsa Joubert

Cul de Sac – A memoir by Elsa Joubert

This is a memoir of being old. How it came to be in my collection I’m not sure – possibly due to someone I know having their name on the back cover… I read on initially curious as to why I’d bought the book some time ago but as I realised it had nothing to do with any of my interests, I continued due to her beautiful descriptions – even in translation from Afrikaans to English.

Elsa Joubert, a long-standing author who died aged 97 in 2020, had been given the idea by her son. He suggested she write about her recent experiences as she had on visiting other countries and places. Growing old is thus portrayed as a place, an experience where machines in hospitals take on lives of their own.

I’m not sure this is really a book that an older person wants to or should read – it depends on their take on life. I found it an honest, reflective account of someone who is comfortable with her lot and seeing the lighter side of what is potentially a very difficult stage in life. I’m sure having an idea of some of the places in and around Cape Town referred to in the book helped keep my engagement.

Having looked a little more at Elsa Joubert, I’m sure another book or two by her will soon be on my reading pile.

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National Poetry Day – did you miss it?

28 September is designated National Poetry Day – at least in the UK. At TSL, we don’t see one day as a special day – all days are special, so below are the our authors who also write poetry. TSL doesn’t specalise in poetry but we do have some poetry either as part of a collection or to support a charity.

Playwright and author Barbara Towell has a book of poetry Patchworks.
Kat Francois and Robbie Cheadle also publish poetry, albeit not through TSL.

To purchase a book, click on the image below:

first published 5 October 2017, updated 2024


How to write about Africa – Binyavanga Wainaina

How to write about Africa – Binyavanga Wainaina
Where does one start? This eclectic collection of essays and articles effectively summarises the career of Binyavanga Wainaina. From Kenya to Transkei for education, to South Africa as student and illegal resident, and back to Kenya as a food fundi and journalist where he died aged 48 in 2019.

The book was recommended to me by a history colleague during one of our then regular discussions about Africa being ignored or, more often, being misrepresented by those who claim to know the continent. Binyavanga tells it as it is, often tongue in cheek. This, mainly in four essays, in a section called ‘A continent of satire’. The other section I enjoyed reading was ‘Away in South Africa and England’, three chapters on being an outsider in Cape Town, food, and Cured of England.

Binyavanga was a survivor – finding ways to make the situation work for him, despite all the odds being stacked against him. While his story is unique, there are similarities with many others, most of whom have, or would, not consider putting their experience down on paper.

See what the New York Times says about him.
And read his essay on How to write about Africa on Grant


Dave Robson appreciation

Dave Robson

I’m intrigued that so many think sailing is easy, but maybe that’s more to do with my personality and the books I’ve read.

Over recent years, a number of books about the ordeal of sailing have been published, a few of which are listed below. So, it was with some kind of relief when Dave Robson approached TSL with How to be a popular crew. It doesn’t tell you how to sail, but it does give good advice for the social side – crucial when a number of people, possibly strangers are living in such close proximity to each other. It’s also well worth a read if you want or need confirmation that life in a restricted moving vessel is not for you despite the allure of new places, beautiful calm blue waters and dreams of relaxing in exotic locations. And if you’re still not sure about sailing after reading How to be a Popular Crew, then try Dick Allan’s Sailing my Dream (2016) or Martinique Stilwell’s Thinking up a Hurricane (2012).

Another feature of How to be a Popular Crew is that at heart it’s about people being considerate and how to work together effectively – all skills needed whether sailing or not. In tackling these issues, the examples Dave uses (keeping anonymity of all) are helpful in developing, or confirming, a sense of self-awareness. Dave’s abililty as a coach/facilitator of life skills are clearly at play in his writing.

Since we published How to be a Popular Crew, Dave has gone on to write a young person’s book about a Shire horse Ben who is lonely and needs a friend. Ben’s Amorous Adventures, inspired by the horse next door called Ben who sadly died not long after, tackles issues of loneliness and friendship. Again, it’s a book which works on two levels – adult and young person. Dave explains more on his website where you can also see what else he has published and does.

As I write this, I await Dave’s next book for publication – keep an eye open. It’s bound to be something different which again works on multiple levels.

TSL books by Dave and some involving boats and sailing:

A version of this post was first published on 19 June 2018, this appreciation is 2024