Since childhood, Jen and Kemi have lived like sisters in the McFadden family home in Edinburgh, brought together by a shared family history which stretches back generations. Kemi was educated in Britain alongside Jen and the girls could not be closer; nor could they be more different in the paths they take in life. But the ties that bind them are strong and complicated, and a dark family secret exists in their joint history. Solam Matsunyane is from South Africa’s black political elite. Handsome, charismatic, charming, and a successful young banker, he meets both Kemi and Jen on a trip to London and sweeps them off their feet. Partly influenced by her interest in Solam, and partly on a journey of self-discovery, Kemi, now 31, decides to return to the country of her birth for the first time. Jen, seeking an escape from her father’s overbearing presence, decides to go with her. In Johannesburg, it becomes clear that Solam is looking for the perfect wife to facilitate his soaring political ambitions. But who will he choose? All the while, the real story behind the two families’ connection threatens to reveal itself – with devastating consequences . . .
Lesley Lokko is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic and novelist, formerly Dean of Architecture at City College of New York, who has lived and worked on four continents. Lesley’s bestselling novels include Soul Sisters, Sundowners, Rich Girl, Poor Girl and A Private Affair. Her novels have been translated into sixteen languages and are captivating stories about powerful people, exploring themes of racial and cultural identity.
My thoughts: some years ago I read and fell in love with Lesley Lokko’s Sundowners, it was the perfect book for the mood I was in at the time and I’ve re-read it a dozen times since. So I was delighted to be able to take part in this blog tour for the author’s latest book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a unique bond between two women, born in Scotland and South Africa but raised as sisters, educated in the UK, but whose paths lead them both to the new, post-apartheid South Africa and into the path of aspiring politician Solam, who is not quite as honourable as he first seems.
There are dark family secrets buried in the McFadden family’s past – but never spoken about, which link the two girls together, and are why Kemi is sent to Edinburgh in the first place.
The connection between Jen and Kemi helps them through difficult times in their lives, even as their paths diverge. Kemi becomes a world class surgeon, and Jen something of a trophy wife, rich and beautiful and terribly lonely.
Lokko’s power as a writer is to make you care about these privileged people and also to transport you to South Africa’s open skies and complex political scene. I only know what I’ve read about the history and huge social changes, but it’s all brought vividly to life – the hope in the air as apartheid ends, the way the former political prisoners take to power and hold onto it.
I really enjoyed this book, as I have the author’s previous books, I loved Kemi, and grew to care about Jen too, although at first I found her spoilt and a bit annoying, expecting her father to keep paying her way as she didn’t really get her life together. I admired Kemi’s drive and dedication to her work – I know that neurosurgeons are few and far between and have to be incredibly focused. The vital bond between them carries the story as we move through the years, as South Africa’s fortunes change and the roles they play within it.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.