The Book Club Blog

Books for any occasion and other life stuff

There Goes English Teacher – a Review

I love reading memoirs, especially about interesting adventures and Karin Cronjes’ There Goes English Teacher did not disappoint.

When  Modjaji Books asked me which book I would like to review, I was torn because all the titles sounded interesting and unique (La Bastarda- Trifonia Melibea Obono,  A Person my colour – Martina Dahlmans) but I chose this one after hearing good things.

I have to be honest when I say I was expecting something as bright and cheery as it’s cover, but alas, while it had it’s funny moments, this was a candid look at the reality of life. This was a story about change, and how to let go. A mother’s journey. The descent into despair,  a writers quest,  and the question of sex after 50.

It’s about teaching English in Korea, and the children who are taught. But this book is so much more than that.  This is about packing up, leaving a life behind and making a new one.

Karin deals candidly with sadness, and madness. And how a midlife crisis can cause havoc to one’s centre of gravity. This was a journey about taking her power back. How to mother differently, her grown up son.  This was also a writer’s journey and how the writing played out( and how it did not) when she allowed herself to listen to the characters, (even when she really didn’t want to). As an author-in-progress myself I particularly enjoyed this element to the book as it showed that we are all at the mercy of our characters, and our processes. There is no forcing something which is not ready to be finished. It takes as long as it takes.  In my writing course with Joanne Fedler, she mentions that ‘What shows up in life shows up in the writing’  and this book was a perfect example of that.

The writing was interesting,  and while the author played with both first and third person accounts, which lead to a couple of confusing moments when I wondered who she was talking about, I soon picked it up and enjoyed the contrast.  And, how it reflected the life she was living back to us, the reader.

I loved the conflict of cultures, the language barriers, the heritage differences, yet even then, friendships were formed. It was these that made her journey bearable, which showed that it doesn’t matter where you come from, connection to others is just as important as connection to self. But, so is letting go of friendships which no longer serve you. And of change. How we may change, but others do not and what to do with that.

This midlife memoir was a rollercoaster ride yet such a refreshing book to read.  I highly recommend reading it. If you are still needing gifts for the season, this would make an excellent gift and you can purchase your copy here.

But, I would love to pass on the love by sharing my review copy with one lucky reader of this blog. What do you need to do?

: Tell me if you could teach English anywhere in the world where would you go?

: Once you have read it, leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Leave your name, answer and email address in the comments and I will do a lucky draw this Friday 7th December and post it on Monday 10th December via the post office. Only open to SA unfortunately.

Happy Reading!


Around Africa on my Bicycle – Riaan Manser – a review

I am sure that if you follow me on FB or twitter, you know that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Let me tell you a bit more about it…

I went book shopping a little while ago in one of my favourite second hand bookshops and I found it in the travel section, i often look in the travel because though I don’t do much of it myself, I do enjoy reading about others that have. Not all of them mind you, I like the quirky and interesting travel books, I remember one that I read a good many years ago called Around Ireland with a fridge, again I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, when I discovered this tome of a book, it was a given that it was coming home with me!

What I didn’t realise was that Riaan Manser was the very same man who went around Iceland on a Kayak, imagine my delight when I found out it was! I fell further in love with this intrepid traveller…

Firstly, I have to say, that I could never travel around Africa on a bicycle, the main reason being is that I cannot ride a bicycle, well, not very well and definitely not through terrain like Riaan had to traverse. So, why did I enjoy this book so much, that it even inspired me to go searching google and find him so that I could request an interview?

My first and foremost reason, is that he travelled Africa. Yes, I am born and bred South African but I have not travelled further than the Eastern Cape. I have not had the pleasure of meeting ‘real African wild life’ (bar from the animals that I see on the game farm on the way to and from my daughter’s school – including a zebra which seems to have come out of hiding and elephants at Addo), I haven’t experienced ‘African Food’ and the people of Africa are of such a wide array, I can honestly see why we are called the Rainbow Nation.

but he did, and on a bicycle no less!

36 500 kilometers and 34 countries,with experiences that most of us would cringe at.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for someone who can put away the creature comforts of our Western civilisation, go it alone and appreciate each and every one of his experiences. And experiences he had, many of them, which personally I think could shape ones internal life, spiritual and physical.

“Here I seemed to understand things about myself and the world itself that I had never understood or even thought of before. Like finding the places to put difficult puzzle pieces of a giant puzzle. nothing flashy happens but inside you know and understand that the puzzle is nearly completed. I don’t think it could have happened anywhere else on the planet.” – Riaan Manser.

Travelling from the V&A waterfront all along the coast line and coming back into Cape Town again, Riaan met many people on his journey, both good and bad and what I really enjoyed about this book is that he doesn’t hold back on spilling the beans on the ‘bad’ people. Both sides are mentioned but it is refreshing to see that usually kindness wins out on the most part. With a good few terrifying experiences, Riaan faces many of his fears in his determination to circumnavigate Africa.

It is a truly inspirational read and I urge to find yourself a copy and get stuck into its 700 pages, for South Africans and non South Africans alike, this will open your eyes to our country and its vast array of different people who inhabit it.

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