The Strangers of Braamfontein

By Megan Thomas

I was offered this to review for Buzz Magazine – uncanny, given that this Welsh magazine was offering me a book set about 20 minutes down the road from where I grew up in Johannesburg. Then to add more fate to the equation, it arrived in the post from FMcM, where I used to work. So I started reading this with high expectations and they were matched.

I scribble down notes while I’m reading to talk about in reviews, and one of the first ones I made was, “reads like a film playing out in my head”. On reading the author’s notes at the end of the book, it turns out this was originally written for TV, which was reaffirming.

For a reader unfamiliar with Nigerian dialect, the dialogue starts off quite jarring, but as you get to know the characters and get into the swing of reading, it becomes natural and makes it all the more authentic.

You can read my full review on Buzz Magazine’s website, but here’s an extract to give you a sense of plot:

“Set on the streets of Braamfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg, strangers from African countries congregate in a city famed on the continent for its potential for employment and betterment – but they are not always welcome. In a country where so many fight against poverty, “eat or be eaten” trumps kindness every time.

We meet a cast of characters, including Nigerian painter Osas, Canadian-born Zimbabwean Chamai, Ruth and her “girls” who elicit sex for survival, thrust together by their association with a Nigerian drug lord, Papi. At times masterfully skirting the line of stereotype and intense realism (stereotypes are always rooted somewhere, right?), The Strangers Of Braamfontein holds up a cracked, blood-stained mirror to modern, post-colonial Africa.”

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