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Gem Squash Tokoloshe

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  47 reviews
"She just sat there hardly moving, staring at the drive. Black marks formed under her eyes where her lashes bled their waxy coating onto her skin. Her rouged cheeks were smudged. Mother looked like she was melting in the heat."

Faith leads an isolated existence on her family's drought stricken farm in the Northern Transvaal of South Africa. When the rain stopped, her father
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 16th 2005 by Pan Publishing
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Average rating 3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  481 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: african-authors
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Seven-year-old Faith and her family lead an isolated existence on a drought stricken farm in the Northern Transvaal of South Africa. When her father leaves, Faith lives not only with her mother and dog, but also with the many ghosts her mother believes in. Left behind by her husband, Faith’s mother, Bella becomes depressed. When their housemaid Nomsa is killed, Bella is incarcerated in the Sterkfontein asylum for the criminally insane, and Faith is placed in foster care.

Fifteen years later, aft
Louise Williams
May 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book totally gripped me - could not put it down till I was finished. The world the author created, particularly through the use of such evocative language, was vibrant and rich. The very real struggle of a woman trying to come to terms with her past is interwoven with the unearthly superstitions and eerie folk tales of South Africa.
Deborah Dicks
Dec 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this mainly because of my years in South Africa - I felt a familiarity with the language used and, yes, the tokoloshe is a strong part of rural folklore. But I am not sure I completely understood the end - I think I know what happened but can't understand why it would have happened so this is making me wonder if I have understood it correctly. Feel free to fill me in if you know....
Jayne Charles
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this a tricky and not massively enjoyable read. The first section was repetitive and seemed intent on conveying to the reader only half of what was going on. There were paintings, evil fairies, vegetables, and - this being South Africa - a compulsory side order of hardened racism.

The back cover promised a forward-leap in time during the story and I found myself desperate for it to happen, in the hope that the presumably-unreliable narrator would become a bit more reliable with age. Unfor
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
If you're a bit sensitive to spiritual activity,then you need to avoid this one. It has them by the heapfuls, but it is very subtle for most of the book.

I felt the childhood aspect of her life spanned on for too long, there was little need to really emphasise the "height of apartheid" in the blurb as this is hardly covered in the book.

As an adult, she is co-dependent, while pushing people away, her upbringing obviously has much to do with this. But she is irritating in that, she wants to be love
Marion Roux
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many years ago I read a review of this book, liked the sound of it and thought that I would like to read it. But it was just this past week that I recognised the title and at last bought the book and have now read it. And I am very glad that I have done so.
The theme hasn't dated and makes for compelling and engrossing reading.
I am not sure what to make of the first and last chapters - not sure that I understood them at all. This did not detract from the telling of spiritual myths and beliefs, an
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this and admired the author's style of writing. For me, the first part - told mostly from the view of a young girl, Faith - went on a bit long and the blurb on the back was misleading and apartheid was there but really not the theme at all. The story begins on the family's northern Transvaal, drought-stricken farm. Faith's life is filled with fairies and evil spirits the subject of her mother's paintings. One day, Faith's father disappears and everything falls apart.
The second part is
Maria Longley
Didn't really click for me. Although I like the idea of gem squash being able to ward off evil... The only way anguish seems to manifest itself in Faith (and there is a lot of it) is through physical illness/affliction so the poor girl/woman is fainting and throwing up all over the place.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an unexpected great read! Well written and I found myself thinking about and realizing what actually happened in the story for a few hours after the end. Glad I found it.
Feb 11, 2020 added it
S - South Africa
Gina  Lewis
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book about a young girl growing up on a farm in the northern transvaal in South Africa. Rachel Zadoks descriptions of the characters in the book really bring home the small town mentality of the day. A very good read, highly recommend
Brief Synopsis:

Set in Africa, told from the perspective of a child called Faith about a lonely existence within a lonelf and isolated family. Tells the tale of her childhood of which starts to deteriorate after her father leaves and her mother has a breakdown and ends up within a mental institution.

Then ten years later.....Faith's mother is dead, after having died insane within the institution and she now has the property that she used to live in belonging to her where she eventually goes back a
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Although this was an interesting book, it isn't one I would recommend to my friends. It was quite depressing, and I was a bit disappointed with it. I did like the ending, but I'm not sure I would have got that far if I hadn't set it for my book club to read.

I had read it before, around the time it was published, but I really couldn't remember much about it. I do remember feeling a bit like it didn't meet my expectations at the time and, although I got more out of it this time, I still feel that
Derek James Baldwin
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it
The germ of a quite brilliant book, which never quite comes off because of the weak narrative structuring. Interleaving the past and the present to a far greater extent would have been a much better way to tell the story. 7 year old Faith is just never really believable enough whereas adult Faith writing about 7 year old Faith would have worked much better. Some of the "tokoloshe" stuff is really very over-written and I wonder if the book could have worked better without that too. Anyhow this is ...more
Joanna Paula Cailas
My best friend really owned the book. I just begged to have it instead. She doesn't get it anyway.

Like the blurb says, it IS haunting. I suppose I can say it's almost like magic realism, except the magic and the realism are separated in sections in both the narrator's childhood and her adulthood. EXCEPT in the parts where myth and real life sort of seeps into each other.

Ok, so that's too vague, but I doubt I'd have liked it if some idiot reviewer spoiled this for me and I didn't get to discove
Miramira Endevall
Apr 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: JFi
Interesting. If you decide to read this book, take the dust jacket blurb with an ocean of salt. This book is more a study in self-inflicted psychosis (in the case of the mother) and parent-inflicted psychosis (in the case of the daughter) than about apartheid South Africa. I enjoyed the story mostly because I kept likening Bella's faerie obsession to my own crazy mother's daemon delusions. If I was in a new relationship trying to explain myself and my childhood influences (i.e. how I got this wa ...more
Amanda Patterson
Jul 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rachel Zadok wishes that she had been born 40 years earlier so that she could be a Nadine Gordimer or soneone like that. She says that South African writers have to carry on writing about apartheid and angst and drama.
I enjoyed the first half of the novel. Her mother fascinated me. The second half was Rachel Zadock in disguise. Faith, the daughter, has to come to terms with her mothers neuroses . She begins a voyage of self-discovery after a tragedy on the farm. Rachel Zadok's talent is that sh
Dec 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Bought a while ago without spotting the 'Richard and Judy' sticker. Worse, R&J 'How to Get Published'. To be fair, it was later short-listed for a Whitbread Book Awards First Novel. It didn't win. Rightly so. Some interesting South African references, but fails if it had the aim to either explain South African culture - not even contextualising properly the tokoloshe of the title - or say anything new about the apartheid era. As literature it falls down by the first 'half' (most of the book, in ...more
Jan 27, 2008 added it
Shelves: 2008
I wasn't a fan of the opening passage, and was glad to see that the book didn't continue in that style. The story was believable and illuminating - particularly the way desperate poverty and lack of opportunities (Faith's family is regarded as "rich", but she doesn't go to school since they can't afford to buy the uniform) is contrasted with Western consumer products. The ending was a twist I hadn't expected, but it wasn't explained enough for me - I like my loose ends tied up.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book while I was in South Africa for the first time and was totally blown away with the writing by this writer. It tells the story of mental illness and apartheid from the perspective of a child and later as young woman grappling with her horrendous past. An amazing read!
If you want to feel like a pumpkin with it insides scraped out this is the book for you...otherwise you may not have the stomach for this deep tale.
Penny nibbs
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
a bitter sweet complicated story about a girl on a farm, whose mother who was mentally ill and affected the child's early years. A father who went off with someone else in the town and couldn't be found when he was needed. The mother in the end appeared to kill Nomsa, the child's Nanny, but at the end of the story somethings are remembered which puts that into doubt...Its a gripping tale if a bit convoluted.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I hadn't heard anything about this book before I read it, I found it in a bargain book bin and thought I may as well pick it up since it was so cheap and the synopsis on the back sounded pretty promising.

There were a few moments throughout the book where it became a little boring and I lost interest, but on a whole it was really good.

It was extremely unsettling and creepy which something I tend to look for in books so I enjoyed it a lot.

Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not sure where I picked up this book but I thought it sounded interesting. I like reading books set in other countries, particularly African countries, and I hadn't read many set in South Africa so I thought I'd give it a go.

On the whole, it was an easy, enjoyable-enough read. I thought the innocent naivety of the central character's perspective on the strained relationship between her parents was interesting but I felt the overall plot was a bit weak.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
Gem Squash Tokoloshe has managed to stick somewhere in the front of my mind for quite some time. So much so, that I've not hesitated to read it a again after many years.

I have no doubt that both the story and that disgusting piece of jam toast will be sure to haunt me for many more years to come!

Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't understand what really happened in the book. Luckily, my mom filled me in since she apparently paid more attention when she read the book. Once she told me what really happened, the book seemed pretty cool :)
sandra hili vassallo
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i am adding those books that have really captured my heart. and this is definitely another one. set in South Africa, which I found interesting because I have not come across a lot of SA authors. starkly written almost poetic in its descriptions, leaves you breathless.
Sarah Jordan
not quite sure about this - lots of fainting and fairies. I think I wanted a different book - set during and after aparteid but I wanted more info on SA and the political background which was missing.
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a powerful book, the prose is very descriptive and the author holds our interest as she weaves us back and forth from reality to fantasy, using a lot of the African folklore. Told from the point of view of the daughter growing up on a isolated farm in South Africa.
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
For a debut novel I found it quite impressive despite some flaws...
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Rachel Zadok is a writer, editor, publisher and the curator of Short Story Day Africa, a platform for African fiction. She has a National Diploma in Fine Arts. Her first novel, Gem Squash Tokoloshe (Pan Macmillan), was shortlisted for The Whitbread First Novel Award and The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and longlisted for the IMPAC award. Her second novel, Sister-sister (Kwela Books 2013) was nominat ...more

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