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Judy Croome: Author on the Prowl

Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa.  A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome

Beauty's Gift

Beauty's Gift - Sindiwe Magona As I like to support local (South African)authors, I added it to my basket.

The FFF used to consist of Five Friends: Edith, Cordelia, Amanda, Doris and Beauty. But then Beauty passes away suddenly. Aids has claimed another victim. On her deathbed, she extracts a promise from Amanda. Ukuhle, she begs of Amanda. May you live a long life, and may you become old.

Because Beauty’s premature death was as a result of her unfaithful husband, the remaining friends all swear an oath: they won't have unprotected sex – not even with their husbands – and they will find out their own HIV status as well as that of their husbands/partners. This oath has surprising consequences.

Aids and its impact on African life is clearly a dominating theme. But this book offers so much more than that. It challenges oppression that masquerades as tradition and irresponsibility that hides behind love.

While dealing with a predominantly (but not exclusively) African problem, Magona points a delightfully irreverent finger at our prolific and polygamous President. In a gentle but strong - almost motherly - way she gives a masterly indictment of the predisposition of some African males to infidelity, promiscuity and reckless negligence towards the women who love them.

But she is clear-headed enough to also condemn the women who, in this time of Aids, passively accept this state of affairs (excuse the pun) because of ‘tradition’. Encouragingly, there are also characters – too few of them, the FFF’s lament – like Amanda’s brother PP, who are the best of what an African man can be. There is also the sympathetic portrayal of Selby, Doris’s fiancé, a good man who struggles with the transition from traditional sexual mores to a more modern, and responsible, attitude.

In an easy-to-read style, with touches of humour and deep poignancy, Magona has produced a novel that is about the evolution of the African soul towards a new kind of freedom; one in which both sexes take responsibility for their lives in an effort to curb a new and dangerous enemy: Aids.

As the remaining friends face challenges to their beliefs, and their relationships are tested and sometimes found wanting, a core message shines through: use your freedom responsibly.

‘Beauty’s Gift’ is a gift to all women, for it shows how a women’s strength and gentleness can be combined to effect changes in a world that is often violent, and even more often lonely. But the FFF’s have each other and, in their unity, lies their salvation.