BOOK EXCERPT: Chilling and intriguing, Joy Watson’s debut novel, The Other Me

Sedick got his way and Carnita moved into our flat at the beginning of February. From the minute she arrived on our doorstep with her suitcase, she was always trying to monopolise him. Needing his advice, wanting to talk to him. They would sit on the couch for hours ‘talking things through’. It felt as though I was the guest in our home. Sometimes they watched stupid TV shows until late at night. I would lie in bed, alone, the married woman whose husband was busy entertaining his sister. I remembered how he told me on our first date that Carnita was his number one priority and probably always would be. Not under my watch. There was no way on God’s earth that I was putting up with her. She couldn’t stay in the flat. But she had to be the one to make the decision to move out, with, of course, a little help from me. 

On the day Carnita moved in, I cooked a crayfish curry for dinner. Precious soul that she was, Carnita was allergic to shellfish. Knowing that she was a sucker for old-fashioned dining rituals, I wanted to set the dining table with a white tablecloth, but decided not to. Sedick had chosen a tempered glass dining table for the flat, mounted on two triangular stilts also made from glass. He was insistent that we not use tablecloths. Instead, I lit the candles mounted on the wall behind the table, each set in a metal circle. Popping a bottle of champagne, I poured three glasses and handed Carnita’s to her on a little tray. 

‘Is it non-alcoholic champagne?’ she said. 

‘God no. What would be the point?’ 

‘I don’t drink any alcohol.’

That’s the thing about Carnita. She always does exactly as she’s told. No mind of her own. As if God cared, one little glass of bubbly was not going to end the world. 

‘No worries,’ I said, ‘I’ll get you a glass of juice.’

After taking the rice off the stove, I called to Sedick and Carnita that they should take their places at the table. It was hard getting them to hear me; they were so busy laughing at some stupid story about an aunt who had gone to the movies and watched a film wearing her sunglasses, thinking they were 3D glasses.

When they eventually sat down at the table, I put the curry down, saying, ‘Here we go, I hope you’re going to like it. I know crayfish curry is your favourite, Carnita.’

Sedick looked aghast, ‘Oh no, Lolly! Carnita is allergic to shellfish. I told you. Why didn’t you make mutton curry?’

‘Really?’ I said. ‘I don’t remember that. I’m so sorry Carnita. I wanted to make something special for your first night with us. Now I’ve gone and ruined it.’

Carnita eyed the curry, the disappointment on her face evident. 

‘No, it’s totally okay. Please don’t worry about it, Lolly. Shellfish makes me break out in a rash. I can make myself a sandwich.’

I sat down, pulling my plate towards me, ‘Are you sure? There’s some cheese in the fridge.’ 

The smell of coriander and garlic was making me hungry. I spooned some curry onto my plate, added a roti and settled down to eat. The crayfish was soft in my mouth. Sedick was staring at me as if he had lost something in my face. I hummed along to the sound of Celine Dion playing in the background.

‘Don’t you think we should wait for our guest to finish making her sandwich?’ Sedick asked. 

Breaking off a piece of roti and dipping it into the curry sauce, I said, ‘She’s not a guest. She lives here now.’  

Continue reading: Daily Maverick Life

The Other Me by Joy Watson

Read also Joy’s article about the forthcoming Open Book Festival: Countdown to the Open Book Festival – A learning powerhouse that adds colour to our cognitive deficits

And book your tickets for Joy’s events at the Open Book Festival: Karavan Press authors at the Open Book Festival 2022

THE ISLAND PRIZE: Call for submissions!

“As African writers, we are often faced with a double dose of challenges. Firstly, getting published within African countries can be incredibly difficult because local publishers are often constrained by finances. Secondly, for many writers getting published overseas is almost impossible because the rest of the world has certain ideas of what an African story should be. Having experienced these challenges first-hand – being told that a novel is ‘too African’ or ‘not African enough’ – I know how important it is that stories from Africa be given a wide variety of platforms so that they can be shared at home and abroad without the need to fit certain moulds. I am proud to be part of The Island Prize for a Debut Novel from Africa – a competition where the judges are African and where the winners have an opportunity of being published both in the UK and in South Africa. This is one step towards bridging the gap between here and there, us and them. In fact, it is through prizes like these that authors across the continent can gain the confidence to tell stories as they wish. The hope is that, with time, such stories will become appreciated across the globe, without first being labelled as an exception or a surprise.”

— Karen Jennings

THE ISLAND PRIZE JUDGES

For more details and the submission form, please see:

THE ISLAND PRIZE FOR A DEBUT NOVEL FROM AFRICA

Good luck!

Karavan Press to publish Lester Walbrugh’s chilling debut novel in 2022

Earlier today, I met with Lester at Liberty Books and Peregrine Farmstall in Grabouw to discuss the publication of his debut novel. We plan to release it in early 2022. The novel is a stunningly written, chilling page-turner set in the Grabouw area. It explores the lethal consequences of shame and silence. A book that will have you reeling long after the last page is turned.

Diane Awerbuck reviews A Hibiscus Coast by Nick Mulgrew for the Sunday Times

Longing and the Promised Land

But A Hibiscus Coast is not all satire. Mulgrew is a sensitive man, and he invokes and then banishes the wishes, regrets, dreams and frustrations that plague us. How difficult it is to write powerfully and meaningfully about feelings; our personal revelations are mostly boring to others. But Mulgrew’s technique is persuasive, at once chattily vernacular and then so lyrical he could name new palettes for Plascon.

This self-interrupting search is linked to his favourite theme, and one which he explores to its fullest in A Hibiscus Coast: the human responsibility to know ourselves in order to know others, and our obligation to tell the truth. We must face our old selves or be consigned to further continental drift.

Sunday Times

Karavan Press title: A Hibiscus Coast by Nick Mulgrew

Cover artwork by Kylie Wentzel

“Her eyes had adjusted, and the light was that of another country.”

Durban North, 1997. Following two shocking and insidious incidents of violence, nineteen-year-old Mary Da Costa is flying to Auckland ahead of her parents to make a new start. She is riddled with reservations – New Zealand is where her late brother was supposed to move – and all she really wants to do is keep to herself and work on her art.

On arrival, Mary comes under the wings of the South African ex-pat community, struggling with its own tensions between homesickness and belonging. Finding work at a local dairy, she meets self-appointed Māori leader Nepukaneha Cooper – Buck, as he’s better known. He and his family have some history with these rugby-mad lovers of apartheid, even more now that they’re encroaching on his turf. If only he had the means to fight them off and realise his life-long dream of establishing a marae on the beautiful strip of coast he has always called home.

Meanwhile, adrift between past and present, Mary is forced to dig deep in order to find her own truths and place in the world.

Nick Mulgrew’s long-awaited debut novel – of grand metaphors, silences, absences, and two cities and countries in flux – is a delightfully innovative, surprising, and warm-hearted meditation on family, loss, and home, as well as a deft examination of dislocation, dispossession, and the cultural blind spots of two very different (and in some ways similar) communities.

ISBN: 978-1-990992-58-2

Publication date: May 2021

About the author:

Author photograph
by Adam Mays

NICK MULGREW was born in Durban in 1990. He is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, the recipient of the 2016 Thomas Pringle and 2018 Nadine Gordimer Awards, and the director of the award-winning poetry press, uHlanga.

Raised in Durban North and Orewa, he currently lives in Edinburgh, and is a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee. A Hibiscus Coast is his fourth book, and first novel.