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Hazel Frankel

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Cape Argus: On my bedside table, 12 March 2012

‘Next to Love,’ Ellen Feldman’s latest offering, focuses on how a major historical event impacts on the lives or ordinary men and women. Central to the narrative is the friendship between three women, left behind by their men when America entered World War II. Inspired by the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach and a group of boys from Bedford, Virginia, the novel provides a compelling follow up to ‘The Boy who loved Anne Frank’ and ‘Scottsboro.’ Waiting on the pillar of books next to my bed is Feldman’s ‘Lucy,’ a fictional reconstruction of F. D. Roosevelt’s relationships with Eleanor, his wife, and his mistress.

The recent movie and Andre Brink’s personal and critical introduction enrich the reading of Ingrid Jonker’s ‘Black Butterflies.’ Each poem is an elusive fragment offering insights into her creative life. Translations by Brink and Antje Krog do the poems full justice.

Aaron Appelfeld’s ‘Blooms of Darkness’ is as absorbing as his autobiographical ‘All whom I have loved.’ Set in Eastern Europe, the novel tells the tale of a young boy after his mother is deported and he is left behind in the care of one of her woman friends. A poetical and exquisite read, the narrative provokes the asking of difficult moral questions, but leaves it for the reader to decide for himself.

In ‘How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken,’ Daniel Mendelsohn’s vibrant essays offer his opinions on movies, ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ on literature, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘The Hours,’ and theatre, Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘A Streetcar named Desire.’ Outspoken and iconoclastic, they lure me back to the original texts. Mendelsohn’s search to uncover the fate of six of six million, family members annihilated in the Holocaust, is recorded in ‘The Lost,’ and is also highly recommended.