Friday, January 28, 2011


My recommendation of the month is a literary masterpiece called Feast of the Uninvited by South African author P.G. du Plessis. This is one of my all time favourite books, and definitely one of the best I've ever read. Usually I wouldn't touch a war drama with a stick, simply because it upsets me too much. What made this story different is that the backdrop is 1899 -1902, the saddest time in South African history - The Anglo Boer war. The war between the two Boer replublics and the British Empire. Since I am a boeremeisie (boer girl) this part of my history, and therefore this story is very close to my heart.

Fees van die Ongenooides - The Afrikaans version

The Feast of the Uninvited follows three generations of the Boer Van Wyk family, the British soldier Captain Brooks and British war photographer Joey Drew, across several years as they deal with the reality and casualties of war, and the devestating aftershocks in the wake thereof. This book is masterfully written; a heartbreaking, realistic portrayal of small, everyday lives touched by the harsh realities of war.

This book is so full of unexpected twists and turns, and delivers the most unlikely of heroes. It breaks your heart in its unwavering reality, then heals it through the strength of these characters who pick themselves up and face the fire once again. That's what I love about this book, its accuracy not only in the war aspects, but also in its stunning portrayal of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Every single page is believable to the extent that I did some research to establish whether these characters truly exist. I could find no proof that they did, but I would not be surprised to one day learn that this book is based on actual accounts of people who lived through this devastating war.

The brilliance of this story was also captured on film. Directed by South African legend Katinka Heyns it was filmed as a miniseries, and can be bought on most online shopping stores. To watch this story unfold is no less dramatic than reading it, and I would recommend that you get your hands on the dvd after you've read the book.

Feast of the Uninvited - the miniseries

What makes the film version more heartbreaking is the fact that they continuously incorporate actual photographs of the Anglo-Boer war. You are literally faced with true visions of heartbroken women, starved children and helpless husbands and fathers. What gives the film version its power is stellar performances by South African greats; The brilliant Anna-Mart van der Merwe as Martie van Wyk and Marius Weyers as Danie van Wyk, Stian Bam as the unlikely hero Petrus Minter, Neil Sandilands as the detestable Daantjie van Wyk and a career defining performance by Lika van van den Bergh as Magrieta van Wyk.

The van Wyk family

The Feast of the Uninvited shoves the realities of a war torn country in your face. Some of your favourite characters die. Others don't get their "happily ever after". This is not a shiny, happy story, but it is a literary masterpiece; definitely the best book I've ever read by a South African author. P.G du Plessis is a master.

Bottom line: You have to read this book.

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