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The West Rand Jive Cats Boxing Club by Lauren Liebenberg
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it was ok

Fancy footwork and choreography figure both in boxing and jiving. And these two physical activities form part of the focus of Lauren Liebenberg’s book set mostly in the late 1950s in a mining township near Johannesburg.

Rock and Roll is in the air and in the minds of the white kids (hence the jive competition that takes place in the story). In the background of their homes they could hear the sounds of the Kwela Kwela music being played by the black mineworkers.

Some of the chapters in the book are narrated Chris, the main protagonist of the novel. He is a keen young boxer who also has a yearning to take part in a jive competition. Other chapters are narrated by Cece, who is Chris’s friend Tommy’s sister. The rest of the chapters are not written as first person narrations.

We follow Chris, Cece, Tommy, and their friends through a series of adventures including a beautifully described boxing match and a less satisfactorily described dance competition. Nearer the end of the book, Cece goes missing and this leads to a disaster for which Chris gallantly takes the blame.

I did not find the book easy to read because I have not learnt Afrikaans. This matters because the text is richly peppered with Afrikaans and other African words. Recognising this, the author has provided a 7 page glossary containing over 100 words or phrases. I knew a few of them (no more than about 10) because my parents used to speak Afrikaans on rare occasions. As for the rest of the words, my guesses at their meanings were often far from correct, and I found that I constantly had to resort to looking them up in the glossary. This disturbed the ‘flow’ of my reading, and consequently my enjoyment of the book. Had I not looked up the words, a lot of the sense of the writing would have been lost on me.

Did I like the book? Not particularly, mainly because the constant recourse to the glossary reminded me of struggling with Latin translations when I was at school, and also because the plot that straggled all over the place, rather like the kids who feature in it, failed to ‘grab’ me.

To conclude, this might be a great read for those who understand Afrikaans, who have passed a certain age, and have nostalgic feelings about life in suburban pre-Apartheid South Africa. For those who do not fall into this category, why not listen to some Kwela Kwela instead?
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Reading Progress

July 14, 2012 – Started Reading
July 14, 2012 – Shelved
July 14, 2012 –
page 75
July 16, 2012 –
page 158
July 17, 2012 –
page 232
84.67% "My hardback edition has only 274 pages. Not too brilliant, but I will read it to the final page."
July 19, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Adam I have one already, dankie! But, as I wrote, it really disturbs my enjoyment if I am having to resort to it too often.

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