Book Review – Van Manenberg, met liefde (Mike Michaels)

Van Manenberg_loot.co.za
Image credit: loot.co.za

 

(Scroll down for Afrikaans)

“Wie’s my ma?
Wie’s my pa?
Wie’s my broe’?
Wie’s my swae’?”

It’s been a long time since I read the last few lines of a book with such a big grin on my face.

The story
Alpha and Jay have been friends since childhood. Life in Manenberg on the Cape Flats (South Africa) was rough. It still is. While Alpha gained status as the leader of a renowned gang, the Lo$Boys, Jay has left the rough life behind to study social work at UCT (the University of Cape Town). At least, he’s trying really hard to leave it behind.

Overall, life is good for Jay – he’s doing well at school, found himself a place to stay in Observatory (one of the better areas in Cape Town) and even met a nice girl who likes him. But then things start to go wrong. Firstly, Alpha wants him back as an active Member of the Lo$Boys. A gang war is threatening to break loose on the Cape Flats and he needs Jay’s help. Secondly, Jay finds himself looking after an abandoned baby. His girlfriend, Rasheeda, disagrees with his decision to care for the child and when they can’t see eye to eye, she dumps him.

But what will happen to the baby? Will Jay go back to the Lo$Boys or stay on the straight and narrow studying at UCT?

From my point of view
Action-packed from the first page, one happening after the other kept me entertained and engrossed throughout this gripping story. On the one hand, Van Manenberg, met liefde (From Manenberg, with love) gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a gangster on the Flats. It’s a life in which killing is commonplace and where ‘a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye’ is the law. Many people live the way they do because that’s all they know. One gets a sense of the kind of lives communities in these poverty-stricken areas live daily.

On the other hand the novel shows that it is possible to rise above one’s circumstances, even though it’s not as easy as simply walking away from it. Jay must make tough decisions and do things he doesn’t necessarily agree with, in order to reach his goals.

I devoured this book. It’s not permeated with unnecessary descriptions or memories, just to fill up the pages. Instead, the author gets to the point and the story unfolds without delay. The combination of a strong storyline, suspense, relatable characters and a meaningful message makes this a must-read for both teens and adults.

Publisher: Protea
Year: 2014

Please return to The Entertainment Journal for more reviews on food and films, plays and places, and books.

— 

Afrikaans:

Boekresensie

Van Manenberg met liefde | Mike Michaels

Die laaste paar reëls van’n boek het my lanklaas so breed laat glimlag.

Die storie
Alpha en Jay is al van jongs af vriende. Lewe in Manenberg op die Kaapse Vlakte (Suid-Afrika) was rof. Dis steeds rof. Terwyl Alpha naam gemaak het as die leier van ’n bekende bende, die Lo$Boys, het Jay dié lewe agtergelaat om maatskaplike werk aan die Universiteit van Kaapstad te studeer. Wel, hy probeer om dit agter te laat.

Oor die algemeen gaan dit goed met Jay – hy vaar goed op skool, het blyplek in Observatory (een van die beter areas in die Kaap) en het selfs ’n meisie wat van hom hou. Maar dan begin dinge skeef loop. Eers vra Alpha vir Jay om hom weer by die Lo$Boys aan te sluit. ’n Bendeoorlog dreig op die Kaapse Vlakte en Alpha benodig sy hulp. Dan word ’n weggooibaba in Jay se sorg gelaat. Sy meisie, Rasheeda, hou nie van die idee dat hy die kind versorg nie en toe hy nie rede wil insien nie, los sy hom.

Maar wat gaan van die baba word? Sal Jay weer by die Lo$Boys aansluit of sal hy as student by die universiteit aanbly?

Uit my oogpunt
Dié boeiende storie is propvol aksie, sommer van bladsy een af. Soos die gebeurtenisse een na die ander afgespeel het, het ek heeltemal in die boek verdiep geraak. Aan die een kant gee Van Manenberg, met liefde vir die leser ’n blik in die lewe van ’n bendelid op die Kaapse Vlakte. In bendewese is moord algemeen en ‘’n oog vir ’n oog en ’n tand vir ’n tand’ is die wet. Vir baie mense is daar eenvoudig nie ’n ander manier om te lewe nie. Die leser sien ook hoe mense in armlastige areas daagliks moet lewe.

Aan die ander kant wys die roman dat dit wel moontlik is om bo jou omstandighede uit te styg, al is dit nie altyd maklik nie. Jay moet moeilike besluite neem en dinge doen wat hy nie noodwendig mee saamstem nie, net om sy doelwitte te bereik.

Ek het die boek verslind. Dis glad nie vol onnodige beskrywings of herinneringe, net om die bladsye vol te maak nie. Die skrywer kom tot die punt en die storie ontwikkel vinnig. Die kombinasie van ’n sterk storielyn, spanning, karaktrers van wie die leser hou en ’n betekenisvolle boodskap maak dit ’n moet-lees boek vir beide tieners en grootmense.

Uitgewer: Protea
Jaar: 2014

 

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