Review: Bad Fruit by Ella King (2022)



Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.


But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .


Huge thanks to the publishers and the Squadpod for sending me a copy of Bad Fruit in exchange for an honest review. I’m sorry it’s been such a long time coming!

Bad Fruit is a fantastic debut – it is taut and compelling and fiercely original. What really elevates it is the level of detail, particularly of Mama’s quirks and whims. It’s all brought to life so vividly: I read the book with the taste of sour fruit juice in my mouth. And yet despite the intricate details, there is so much that is hidden beneath the surface – the novel hums with the weight of the unsaid. It’s really cleverly done – the trauma is deep and cutting, but never made explicit – and it’s all the more powerful for that.

Lily is a really interesting protagonist, allied as she is at the start of the novel with Mama and her strange ways. This complicity, and the difficulty of breaking away from it, is one of the most fascinating aspects of Bad Fruit – Mama gets away with her behaviour because she is allowed to do so, and in some ways Lily is her co-conspirator as well as her victim. The dynamics at play between all of the characters are nuanced and complicated, and there’s a kind of twisted pleasure in teasing them all out.

The unravelling of Lily’s memories, and the sense of the pieces of herself coming apart, especially towards the end of the book, makes for some of the most tense scenes in the book – at times there is an almost thriller-like feel to the narrative, as events unfold that you can’t look away from. It’s totally immersive, a book to be devoured in a couple of sittings, and one that will stay with me for a long time. I’m looking forward to reading more of Ella King’s work.

Bad Fruit by Ella King is published by HarperCollins and is available to purchase here.


Review: The Promise by Damon Galgut (2021)


Winner of the Booker Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2022

A masterpiece of a family in crisis from twice Booker-shortlisted author Damon Galgut

The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.

The narrator’s eye shifts and blinks: moving fluidly between characters, flying into their dreams; deliciously lethal in its observation. And as the country moves from old deep divisions to its new so-called fairer society, the lost promise of more than just one family hovers behind the novel’s title.

In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.


Many thanks to Zara at FMcM and the Rathbones Folio Prize for sending me a finished copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Apologies for the delay!

I’ve read a couple of other works by Damon Galgut, and as a big fan of South African literature, I was thrilled to hear he’d won the Booker. My expectations were high on starting The Promise, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The most striking aspect of this novel is how skillfully the author manipulates the roving point of view, flitting between the characters with a modernist ease reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. Stylistically, the book is beautifully wrought, each sentence delicately laced with meaning. intricate and complex, a true lesson in the craft of writing. But it is not a case of style over substance: there is story here too, and character, and moments of tension and heartbreak.

‘The farm’ is a recurring motif in South Africa literature (I won’t punish you by dropping in my decades-old undergrad essay on this topic, though I have to admit this book did have me looking it out!) and here, the Swart family’s smallholding is not only a symbol but also a stage, where various family dramas play out at intervals across the years, shadowed by South Africa’s tumultuous history. The narrator’s role as ‘puppet master’ heightens this sense of theatricality – characters are dropped onstage and then summarily dismissed, and the ‘behind the curtain’ artifice of storytelling is directly commented on.

I think what I loved most about The Promise is that it showcases exactly what a novel, and only a novel, can do when the author is operating at the peak of their powers: it delves into the psyches of fictional characters in order to give us a better understanding of ourselves. The fiction provides a mirror for reality, and truths both beautiful and ugly are brought to light. It is an incredibly powerful book, and one that will stay with me for a long time.

The Promise by Damon Galgut is published by Vintage and is available to purchase here.

Blog Tour: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Huge thanks to Sryia at Penguin Random House for inviting me on the paperback blog tour for a book I read when it first came out and absolutely LOVED! I’m re-sharing my review below – do check out the other stops on the tour over the next few weeks! And if you haven’t read Nobody But Us yet, you’re in for a treat!


He’s a well-respected college professor. She’s a young and eager-to-please student.

He knows she would do anything for him. She knows his certainty is his weakness

He thinks he’ll get what he wants. She thinks he’ll get exactly what he needs.

Two liars.
One twisted path.
A game of cat and mouse.



I’m not sure if I devoured this book, or if this book consumed me, but either way, I could not put it down. This is one of the most tense – and intense – reading experiences I’ve had for a while, and I loved every second of it. From the dramatic opening to the gradual unveiling of what has taken place, Nobody But Us is an absolute masterclass in creating narrative tension. It’s a tricky book to review in terms of the story, because so much of the twisted pleasure comes from discovery as you read, so I’ll keep this brief and focus instead on what I love about Laure Van Rensburg’s writing.

There is a sharpness to the prose, a piercing accuracy – each sentence has the ability to startle, to awaken new ways of seeing. It is beautiful, clever writing – shaped and polished, with the glassy sleekness of the house itself. The descriptions of the house where these disturbing events unfold are some of the sharpest writing in the novel: the author could not have chosen a more perfect setting for Ellie and Steven’s weekend away. Its stylish modernity contrasts with the wildness of the landscape around it, and the visual quality of the writing creates a cinematic effect. I really felt like I was watching the events unfold rather than reading about them – it’s a very powerful effect.

Nobody But Us isn’t my usual type of book – but I have come to realise that I pretty much only have a ‘usual’ type in order to attempt to manage the ever-growing list of books I want to read! Every time I step outside my comfort zone, I realise how much can be learned from books outside my typical genres. This is some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time, and Laure Van Rensburg is a debut author to watch. It’s a book that will have you messaging your friends to say “text me when you’ve finished!” – a book you’ll want to talk about and recommend to everyone you know.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg is published by Penguin Michael Joseph – the paperback is out NOW and is available to purchase here.