Every morning after she’s had her breakfast, she goes to her chair. She takes a handful of clay from a plastic bag and kneads it to her wheel. But this ingenious ceramist , the woman whose works sell for five figures- around the world, in dollors- fails to make anything as the clay refuses to take shape. It’s almost as though she is deliberately setting herself up to fail because her ceramics are generally hand built. I can see her frustration. Today, Tuesday, as I watch her there is a pack of cigarette and over and over again, she fails. After many failed attempts, she throws the lighter across the room. And tears start falling. She turns to the window and faces me. I adjust my features from guilt to something I hope says, ‘ We are in this together,’ or, ‘I am here for you.’ She gets up and comes to me. She takes my hand. It is the first time she has held me since that day. Her grip is as strong as I remember it. I feel a thrill going through me.
‘Lets go to the kitchen and have some of Zuko’s favorite chocolate- chip ice cream’, she says.
I don’t even know how to articulate the impression this book left me with. I don’t know how to present it to you without expressing the torture I suffered from behind the pages of this book.
I literally screamed when I came to the last page. How does Zukiswa Wanner put up such work and then just disappears leaving us with guesses not knowing what takes place next?
Title: London Cape Town Joburg
Author: Zukiswa Wanner
As the title hints, this is a story set in the three city towns, two continents about two individuals from two different worlds. That of Germaine, a white woman, a ceramist and a lecturer, and, Martin O’Malley, a black South African, armed with an MSc from the London School of Economics trying to make his way through the investment banking industry.
When we first meet them, Zukiswa spills it all out. The couple has lost their 13 year old son, Zuko. He committed suicide on his birthday. But why? What in the world can drive a young man into doing such? Is it that the parents neglected him? Were they frustrating him or something? All these will be reveled later in the last chapter of the book, through Zuko’s entries in his journal.
The first sentence got me intrigued enough to read through the book, ‘Zuko Spencer- O’Malley is dead. Dead via suicide. At the tender age of thirteen. My son is dead.’
This one right here is a punchline one can’t escape from. You cannot possibly ignore what’s about to be revealed to you.
And so you (the reader) proceed in flipping through the pages to know exactly why Zuko who’s joining the teen club decides to take away his life.
Narrated from Germaine and Martin’s perspective, Zukiswa paints a picture of how beautiful love really is. The relationship between these two protagonists is to die for. One to be admired! At some point I found myself totally immersed in it I’d even put aside what I first read when I picked up the book. Germaine and Martin immediately click and fall in love when they meet which later culminates to their marriage and the birth of their son Zuko.
Germaine will later quit her lecturing job and take a room in their house to be her ceramic studio while attending to their son.
Martin then decides to move to South Africa in what he claimed that he wanted his son to grow up among people who look more like him. Close to his mother and brother who lived in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively. Germaine agrees to it and they soon move to start a new leaf in Cape Town. There she gets a studio space and even introduces a group of women to ceramics thanks to her brother in-law, Liam. This was also during a time where the country was prepping for elections and since Liam was actively involved in the politics of the country, he had to do something that will give him and his party some credits from the citizens. Trust any African political aspirant to do anything that will make them clinch the government seat.
Life in Cape Town looks so bleak for them and it sure is. Zuko is happy and gets along pretty well with his uncle, he’s discovered his talent in swimming, Germaine already has a clique of friends who I always looked forward to their drama, Martin has a good paying job in the bank investment sector but he craves for new challenges. When he talks to his brother about it, Liam doesn’t hesitate to offer him the top job, CEO position, in his firm which is located in Jo’burg. Martin is a bit hesitant about it but later buys into the idea after talking it out with Germaine. And so they have to move again to Johannesburg. It’s in this city that drama unfolds. Martin gets to meet his biological father who doesn’t seem pleased with Germaine being his son’s wife. But who’s Germaine to keep up with such racial crap? She sweeps it under the carpet the Germaine style lol. I totally loved her character.
Sindiwe, Martin’s mom remains adamant about her position with her ex- lover (Martins father) and will never give into what Martin proposes to her about him. Her stand will later be proved right when the old man succumbs to Cancer and leaves behind a debt that claimed Liam’s Germaine and Martin’s savings. This realisation leaves the four lead characters perplexed including Zuko who came into the picture as a victim of the circumstance. It’s at this point that Zuko takes his own life. The book ends with Zuko narrating the reason why he committed suicide in his journal entry. I had to go back to the prologue and read it again. I didn’t want to admit that the book was over. I was nearly pulling out my hair. How? Why?
I was thrilled when buying this book including the bonus of getting it autographed ( which I still am), but hey how does one just go about their business after reading such a heart-wrenching text and pretend like nothing happened? This guilt in me is so pronounced I can’t even seem to pick up another book. Not at the moment. No thank you. Zukiswa had warned me though when she autographed my book that I don’t dispute, but how was I to know that it was that serious?
See, she says ‘don’t cry too much,’
Now am asking myself if I really needed to be so thrilled as I appear in this photo when Zukiswa was signing my book. The torture bibliophiles go through in paperbacks is unfathomable.
London Cape Town Joburg is a must read for all that are looking forward to read something in the African Literature category. The book tackled several subjects that cut across; racism, homosexuality, politics, betrayal, xenophobic, adultery, family, culture and some bit of soccer tidbits for the soccer fanatics.
It’s an enjoyable read which is blended with information she’s gathered from people that made it possible for her to create the characters in the book. Despite the heart break, I still love Zukiswa and am looking forward to read her other books. You can read my review on ‘The Madams’ book here.
Have you read the book? Like me, do you want to have a word or two with Zukiswa?