I read the memoir first. Below is a copy of my review on Goodreads, posted back in September:
Funny how you expect to take away from a particular book something synopsis-specific, but end up being treated to something SO much more.
Although Rahla and my stories are incredibly similar, physical circumstance and anecdotal evidence make them equally distinct. While her spirit is innately free, galloping through life with gay abandon, mine is several shades darker, more tightly coiled. And I have come to the realisation that between BP sufferers, the way in which our angels and demons manifest during acute manic and depressive episodes is quite unique.
Over and above the sense of solidarity and kinship I found with a fellow 'crazy', the most poignant part of this book, for me, was her exquisitely eloquent explanation of a shared spiritually. Through her unborn daughter 'Tallulah', Rahla manages to express in words what Dr Michael Newton's 'Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives' never quite managed to do. And I cannot thank her enough for FINALLY verbalising the way I feel about the miracle of life, death, and everything in between.
Then I read Bubbles. An eponymous fictionalised memoir, based on the real-life unsolved murder of 18-year-old Jacoba "Bubbles" Schroeder in Johannesburg, 1949. Below is a copy of my review on Goodreads, posted about an hour ago:
Through amazing imaginative empathy and her lush, yet effortlessly readable writing style, Rahla transports us back in time. To a post-WW2, pre-Apartheid era South-Africa; the half-hidden world of a good-time girl, her bookie, and the dearth of men willing to pay for the pleasure of her company. Plus her association with a well-connected and dangerously close-knit circle of young Jewish guys, that ultimately led to her untimely demise.
With a colourful collection of anachronistic euphemisms, and our protagonist’s steady stream of delightful malaphors and idiosyncrasies, I defy you not to fall in love with this version of the story...
"He put his arms around me; they were heavy and wrapped me up like a small parcel. I felt myself falling like Mimsy the cat must've fallen when she was dropped to the bottom of the river. His coat smelled like Dr Snyman talking and the shade of the willow trees in Lichtenburg. It smelled like Mrs Walker's baking and the back of Winnie's knees in the middle of the night, like the inside of the lift in John Orrs and the filters of my Viceroys. It smelled like the sun and it smelled like my dreams. It was dark inside his coat and I could hear his voice like a song."
It is also deliciously funny in places...
"I handed him the hanky and saw his thing had coiled up small now like a defeated animal."
Warning: If you are a prude, then Bubbles is NOT for you. If, however, you want to learn how to give the world’s most sensational blowjob, then buckle up and enjoy the ride. Seriously, this little novel is more educational in parts than Jenna Jameson’s tome How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. Without a shadow of a lie.
The film rights to this novel have been bought by Lisa Bryer, co-producer of The Last King of Scotland, but I was told by Rahla at an author talk / book signing last week that the project is currently in development hell. The producers want to use the real names of the characters involved, but the fact that the main murder suspect, Hyman Balfour Liebman, is still alive (and on Facebook!), presents some serious legal issues. He and his co-accused, the late David Polliack, who also happened to be Liebman’s cousin, were both acquitted without the case ever going to trial.
Below is a montage I created, incorporating images from award-winning contemporary artist Kathryn Smith's Incident Room exhibition, a recent pic of the gorgeous Rahla, and of course, a couple of Bubbles.