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.