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You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
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You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  327 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town is among the only works of fiction to explore the experience of “Coloured” citizens in apartheid-era South Africa, whose mixed heritage traps them, as Bharati Mukherjee wrote in the New York Times, “in the racial crucible of their country." Frieda Shenton, the daughter of Coloured parents in rural South Africa, is taught as a child to emulat ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 1987)
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Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
From the Virago new writers series; this is a series of connected short stories which are semi-autobiographical. It is an examination of the experiences of the Coloured community in South Africa during the apartheid era from the 1960s. The connecting factor is Frieda Shenton growing up in the 1960s in the Coloured community, leaving in the early 1970s and returning in the late 1980s. There are some very good short stories here and Wicomb captures the tensions of being inbetween. Her par
Rima Rashid
This was quite a boring and disappointing read. I couldn't invest in any of the characters including the semi-protagonist Frieda because Wicomb introduces the characters at a distance.

I think it's because I've become used to reading one voice in post colonial texts so it makes sense that Wicomb felt multiple voices would do justice to telling the story of Apartheid South Africa.

My favourite part has to be the last chapter / story showing Frieda and her mother's reunion. Huge respect for a woma
Jenny Newman
This is a dark & depressing story about a young girl born into & growing up in apartheid South Africa. There is much despair and dysfunction about her life that is told with immense bitterness and an odd determination to seek out her misery in everything that involves and affects her. She is fortunate have a university education where she can break the mould of a young coloured girl growing up in the 60s in South Africa and emigrate to a more 'unfettered' existence in the UK. When she re ...more
Izzy Q
May 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Narrator is really hard to follow... the overall story is confusing at parts but the way it's written is awesome. If you want to read it, you must have a great load of patience...
Fred Daly
Jun 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Linked stories set in South Africa. Interesting, with some very nice moments, but overwritten at times.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
A slim volume of interlinked stories about a Coloured woman in South Africa, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town brings to light exactly the kind of life that too often does get lost to racism and sexism. Frieda, an English-speaking girl in a Afrikaans-speaking area of Cape Province during Apartheid, wins a place at the University of Cape Town, which leads her into the classic dilemma of those who are first in their families to be educated: not truly accepted in white male society, she also becomes ...more
Atie Reynaert
This was the first time - the first time I can recall - reading a short story sequence and I was quite surprised by how hard it actually is to find your way between the different stories, characters, settings and jumps in time. Since I found it very hard to grasp the story due to these technical reading difficulties, I offer You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town three stars. I did however really like the contents as it offered me a new insight on Apartheid. However, I am quite sure that it will become ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favorite books. When I read it, I lost track of everything else. I don't have my own copy because I keep giving it away.
Thomas Ryan
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent stories that capture much of South Africa's history
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town is a book perhaps best described with the language of food: flavorful, tangy, earthy, a mix of style and story that chronicles emotions both universal and yet particular to the South Africa Wicomb writes about. Afrikaans words are mixed in with almost 19th-century British turns of phrase, and the combination makes for some complex, unusual, and beautiful passages. Wicomb has a knack for sketching the geography of a place in few words, making her scenes vivid even ...more
Wicomb is a South African writer whose title story describes a young woman‘s journey to meet her white boyfriend to get an abortion. Her disorientation contrasts with his admonishment, “You can’t get lost in Capetown” suggesting the differences in their experiences of race, class, and gender in the apartheid-era South Africa. In reading the title story, I particularly enjoyed Wicomb’s ability to mingle the physicality of the situation with the disorientation the protagonist feels. I was even mor ...more
Poetic - and yet not my cup of tea at all,, 29 January 2015

This review is from: YOU CAN'T GET LOST IN CAPETOWN (Paperback)
Published in 1987, this is a series of ten vignettes of life in S Africa. All ten are narrated by the same character, Frieda Shenton, a 'respectable Coloured', and are little chronological glimpses into her life in the apartheid state.
I found it difficult to review this book: Ms Wicomb's writing is poetic with threads of deeper meaning, and yet I didn't find it at all intere
The afterward to this book makes the point that fiction from the Global South is too often read *only* as a political/anti-colonial statement, rather than fiction in its own right. I agree, though I think in practice it's impossible to separate a work entirely from the context in which it was produced. You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town is a great read first--an engaging collection of stories. It's also an important political statement, and from what I understand Wicomb's work is deliberately polit ...more
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is outstanding.


The first few stories hooked me. The title story is truly unforgettable. The book loses steam toward the end. The quality of her writing is consistently great. This book is also notable for being one of the few literary accounts of South Africa's Coloured people (at least that I could find, in English).
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thought provoking and beautifully written, the stories map out a journey through apartheid with an eclectic bunch of people. Their internal and external conflicts and desires jar. Full of juxtaposition, language is at once poetical and painful, seasoned with a bleak type of humour.

Need to read more from Ms Wicomb.
Janet Williams
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is literature! Very well written and engaging. A unique point of view of a "coloured" woman/girl living in South Africa during apartheid. Note that "coloured" is not black (for Americans). Highly recommended. Poignant, funny, revealing, and short.
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
South African episodic memoir....1970-90's?....disjointed episodes of educated black woman born in South Africa, living in London.

I was hoping to learn more about South Africa. This book is not the book for that, other than vocabulary.
I liked this book. And easy read, nothing more,nothing less. Considering the fact that I'm usually not too fond of novels situated in Africa, that's really not a bad thing.
I liked especially the stories themselves, the mixture of 'today', and child memories was good.
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Really, a 3.5.
Vincent Scarpa
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The title story alone is worth the read.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this. How Wicomb uses language is beautiful and melodramatic - though that may just be the Narrator. The subject is a tough one, but well worth the read.
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Feb 04, 2016
Gina Ackerman
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May 13, 2009
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Oct 10, 2017
Priscilla Semphere
rated it it was ok
Jun 06, 2015
Iris Braeckman
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Feb 23, 2018
Mimosa Shah
rated it it was amazing
Dec 10, 2007
Jacara Brown
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Jun 04, 2016
James Mcenaney
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Jan 14, 2013
rated it really liked it
Apr 03, 2014
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Zoë Wicomb attended the University of the Western Cape, and after graduating left South Africa for England in 1970, where she continued her studies at Reading University. She lived in Nottingham and Glasgow and returned to South Africa in 1990, where she taught for three years in the department of English at the University of the Western Cape She gained attention in South Africa and internationall ...more
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