Feldman journeys with the reader to finally unpack his heavy bags

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman

A review by Brenda Daniels

The blurb of Carry-On Baggage describes the author, Howard Feldman, as “a high-flying commodity trader, living a seemingly perfect life, with a perfect wife and perfect children, in an unbelievably perfect world.”

It then goes on in a more sinister tone to say that Howard “gets attacked. And attacked again. Then he gets sick. His business folds. And his carry-on baggage simply gets too heavy to hold.”

Concerned that this “sort-of autobiography” might be just another moralistic misery memoir, I nevertheless was attracted by the travel theme, and decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Carry-On Baggage is neither miserable nor moralistic. Nor is it self-indulgent.

It is an entertaining, descriptive, easy-to-read book, written with humour by an author with an obvious interest in other people.

In this story Howard describes his family and business life in South Africa, Israel and the USA. He speaks candidly of family and business difficulties, of personal faults, and how crime in South Africa deeply affected him and his loved ones. Although the crime experienced was devastating and, for Howard, ultimately life-changing, the incidents aren’t belaboured or inappropriately revealing.

Feldman writes with obvious affection about his extended Jewish family, and manages to portray his natural people skills without pride or affectation.

The blurb preps the reader for a change in the author’s life and therefore psyche. The revelation, however, occurs only at the end of the book where Feldman describes psychologically “unpacking his bags” and “lowering his banners”. Although I found this arrangement a little puzzling I really enjoyed the journey.

I was left with a hope that I might one day meet Howard Feldman face to face.

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman is published by Tracey McDonald Publishers. An e.Book is also available.

Visit www.thewriteoutlook.com for more info on Howard.

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Photo: Brenda Daniels

South African novel The Keeper is almost a keeper

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Keeper is written by South African author Marguerite Poland. It tells the story of Hannes Harker, a lighthouse keeper who worked in the 1950s before automation takes over. Extremely efficient, Hannes is totally dedicated to his job and jumps at the chance to take up a remote posting on an island off the southern Cape coast.

Accompanied by his morose wife Aletta, the two arrive on an island inhabited largely by workers who collect and make compost from the abundance of available bird faeces. The place is also full of memories for Hannes. Hannes’s father was a lighthouse keeper and his mother, who lived with him, died mysteriously when Hannes was just a boy.

Deeply affected by the trauma of his childhood, Hannes is startled one day to find a special memento made by his mother. In his shock he stumbles and falls, badly injuring himself. He has to be taken to the mainland and spends a long time recuperating in hospital.

Much of the book is written from the viewpoint of Hannes relating his story to a wise, patient nurse, Sister Rika. As he tries to understand his past, Rika, in a sense, becomes his keeper.

The Keeper is a lonely, depressing story, something I didn’t enjoy. It is saved from complete morbidity, however, by the underlying theme of relationship. It is also beautifully and simply written, contains deep meanings that require some reflection to be appreciated, and is a welcome South African novel.

Photo supplied by Penguin.

Photo supplied by Penguin.