The Book Club Blog

Books for any occasion and other life stuff

Sweet as candy

I vaguely remember seeing this book at Exclusive Books, and then I found it last week at the library and seeing as though I am a fan of chick lit books it headed home with me.

Saturday afternoon rolled around and with my daughter sleeping I had some spare time and decided to read, but, (and if you read my last post you will know) I am reading Cloud Atlas at the moment – a new to me author- and it was a at a rather hairy part of just being a little difficult to read and I really didn’t feel like concentrating on a different time dialect. So, I picked this up for some light relief.

And I loved it! The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is magical. Light and fluffy but with a little bit of substance, pretty much like a freshly baked chocolate brownie;-)

This novel is about friendship, love, what we do to not love and the possibilities of a new day. There is a small twist at the end, which one does suspect closer to the end of the book but if you are a very perceptive reader, you could pick it up earlier and just adds to the magical dimension of this story. Not too much that it doesn’t feel real though.

I read it in about 3/4 a day (luckily the man was on hand to play  football with the little one…) and if you are looking for something easy to read but that definitely has a feel good vibe, read this:-)

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Annica Foxcroft is the South African author of ‘There are ants in my sugar’ and ‘More Ants’. The first book I was lucky enough to discover at one of my favourite second hand stores and hadn’t realised until I had finished reading it that it had been recently published, imagine my delight when I found out she had written a second one!

Annica’s writing is humorous and entertaining. It delights the soul in showing how she overcame her ‘adversary’ the kakibos and how her community is diverse and even though it was the sixties, with the apartheid reign still happening, she manages to overcome that ‘boundary’ with friendship.

I am pleased to say that after reading her book I decided to contact her and see if she would be willing to do an interview for The Book Club, which she very kindly was! (How lucky are we?)  As you can see by her answers that her writing style is not only limited to her books and you get a taste for what is in store for you in ‘The Ants series’.

1)  When did you first decide to put pen to paper and write ‘There are Ants in my sugar’ and what made you decide to write about that period of your life?

A very popular novel came out in the 70’s or early 80’s; A Year in Provence. It was written by a London ad agent who retired to France and nearly went beserk trying to deal with the peculiarly french idea of how to live, work, eat. When I read it I was highly amused and though ‘ha!You should hear about my year in Walker’s Fruit Farms!’ For no defensible reason, though, I didn’t attempt to write this story until three years ago. Inexplicably, one Sunday afternoon, the bug bit and I sat down and started writing. I wrote in the early mornings before work, after work, over weekends, and, six weeks later it was done, leaving me panting and wide eyed.

2) I simply loved the character of May. Was she as true to life as you portrayed her to be, or did you embellish somewhat?
I can really understand your asking that question! Jenny Crwyss-Williams asked me how much I ‘pimped’ May. No, I did no airbrushing at all, she was an original and totally authentic.

3) How long did you actually live in the ‘pondokkie’ for?

I managed to remain for about four or five years before grabbing my child under one arm and my cat under the other, and running for my life. Human nature is so odd: Over the years I used to drive out to the country every now and then and, nostalgically(!!) go and see that the beat-up little heritage pondokkie was still there, largely unchanged. Then two years ago, I drove out again and – whoooops! It had been demolished! I had such a shock of bereavement – How daft is that?

4) Your first book is largely autobiographical, is ‘More Ants’ just the same?

I tried very hard to announce the ‘More Ants’ was  a work of fiction – but of course, it isnt entirely. My uncontrollable family energetically push their way into every unoccupied space in my life, and they are far from fictional!
5) Are you thinking of doing a book tour around South Africa?

What a totally stunning idea! I hadn’t thought of it. How on earth would one finance it?!
6) What were your favourite books as a child?
Oh, what a question! I read all the books my generation read – and which one cannot find even in second-hand bookstores now: Mowgli, all Kipling’s stuff, Charles Dickens – the lot, poetry by the mile, Don Camillo, every novel on the Saint. Of course, Shakespeare, anything I could get my hands on even vaguely related to archaeology, ancient history, comparative religions, metaphysics. If books were not available, I read papers, magazines, final notices, instructions on the labels of drain cleaners and packets of seeds. Nothing much has changed.
I tried all over Joburg to find a copy of Kipling’s JUST SO stories to give my grandson – in particular, my favourite THE CAT WHO WALKED ALONE. Can you believe, people looked at me as though I were trying to buy a copy of 17th century erotica. They’d never heard of Kipling. Well this is sad.
Perhaps this last century has just passed very fast. I say this because, some years ago when I visited my daughter and son-in-law in Canada, they took me to a vast museum across the border in the USA. It was full of steam trains, Ford motor cars, paraffin stoves, irons that one heated up on the back of coal stoves, milk separators and butter churns.. and my family marvelled at the quaint antique curiosities. I was speechless. “Look here, these aren’t antiques!” I protested irritably. “I grew up with these things!” Of course the family gave me one of those trout-eyed looks and said, “Our point exactly.” The cheek – I’m not even seventy yet.

7) What book/s are you currently reading?

The five languages of love. The Sirius Mystery. (Rereading)Hamlet’s Mill, The 7-day MBA, The art of war, The Netherworld. I enjoy reading a number of books sort of in one glorious overwhelm of fascination.

8) What is your idea of happiness?

FREE TIME! That means having the money to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it and for as long as I want to do it. Haven’t quite got the knack of this yet! And I would spend my time writing, reading, travelling, loving the important people and animals in my life..and in anguished prayer that some super entity would halt the looming horror of global warming, polar bear extinction, the flooding of Venice…

9) What question do you wish interviewers would stop asking you?

I have no problem with questions – only when interviewers stop asking them!

If you have any other questions for Annica please write them in the comments section and we can see if we can get a follow up interview at a later stage…


There are Ants in my Sugar – Annica Foxcroft

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When my sister told me she had this book for me to read, I wasn’t really interested.  “Ants in my Sugar” – what sort of a title was that for a book – yet alone a good book.

She posted it up to me.  I collected it from the Post Office and listened to my 11 yr old daughter reading the back cover to me.  Despite her tripping over some of the large words used, after hearing the ‘blurb’ I knew I was going to enjoy this book.

So much so, that I bought the sequel ‘More Ants’ whilst at Exclusive that same day.

Without giving away too much, the story centres around Annica, a young mother in the sixties in South Africa.  She is married to a much older man who unexpectedly hits financial ruin.  His solution to this is to buy a ‘pondokkie’ in the country, curb their spending and recover from his disaster.

Her new home is set on a 2.5 acre plot of khakibos and the occasional blackjack.  She has to adjust to a typical ‘farming’ way of life – a borehole, windmill and no inside ablutions.   No electricity or running water.  The joys of an Aga (wood-fired)  stove.  All in the middle of winter.

The characters she encounters along her journey are what make the book as delightful as it is.  May, her ‘maid’ and closest friend.  The black sangoma who lives next door. And the Jewish pig farmer.

I think one of the reasons i so enjoyed this book is because her way of life resonated so with mine (I live on a farm).  I have an Aga, a windmill and a reservoir.  Luckily tho i do have running water, and an inside toilet.

I laughed from beginning to end.  It’s an easy read.  Light but meaningful.  And the sequel is just as, if not, more delightful.

This is a book you can keep on your nightstand and dip into from time to time.  You won’t be disappointed.

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