Monday, 5 February 2018

AFRICAN WAYS AGAIN by Valerie Poore @vallypee

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I've read all or nearly all Val Poore's travel memoir books, and was looking forward to this one coming out, having adored its prequel, African Ways.

Genre: Travel Memoir: South Africa

Val Poore, the woman who can write a whole chapter about the weather, and make it interesting....

I adored the first African Ways book, about the three years in the early 1980s when Val and her family lived on a farm up a mountain in South Africa; in this she describes the time as possibly the happiest in her life, and the book reflects its magic.  Now, the family have moved down the mountain to the small town of Byrne, where they can enjoy such luxuries as electricity.  And snakes.  Don't forget the snakes.  There was me thinking how much I wanted to live there, until I read about them.

When Val's children go to school, she is faced, for the first time, with apartheid; segregation is still in place.  Aside from this, there are daily reminders about how hard life can be for the natives of South Africa at this time.  She doesn't write about it by way of 'raising awareness', or anything so ghastly, though; it's all very matter of fact, just her observations.  This book does not pretend to be a political or sociological comment, but maybe because it doesn't, it kind of is, in the best possible way.  I definitely got the feeling, though, of, as Val says, the calm before the storm of the early-mid 1980s.

Aside from this, I loved the reminders of the pre-internet life that has disappeared; her amazement at the wonder of fax machines, and the discovery of cheap LPs in her favourite shop (under 25s: ask your mum).  When I read about the mountain dwellers being cleared from the land, I felt so sad.  I feel nostalgic for that time on Val's behalf, and I've hardly even seen pictures of it.  One of the reasons I love her books is that it is so clear that she cares more about people, experiences, living in the moment and simple joys than materialism and conforming to society's 'norms'; there aren't many of us about, at our age!

I'd definitely recommend this book if you're a dog person; I am massively not, but there is much animal stuff that will make the lovers of our four-legged friends smile.

Val deals with upheavals in her personal life in that far away country with two small children to care for, but by 1987, what with the 'gathering storm' of racial and political unrest, she decides it is time to go back to the UK.  Can she return to 'normal' English life?  You'll have to read this, and all her other books, to find out!


  1. Terry, I am really quite moved by this review. You’ve tapped into what I was trying to say perfectly. Thank you so much. This means a whole heap to me. And sorry about the dogs and had to happen sometime...haha!! :)))

    1. Yeah, I think you're either a dog person or you're not, and if you are you MASSIVELY are, and if you're not you just don't really get it. I used to have cats but I prefer my animals on a TV screen these days! Lovely book - thank YOU! x

  2. Thanks, Terry. It sounds fabulous. I'm going to check the first one...

  3. Hi Val and Terry - loved the review ... I thought I'd get it - but see it's not available in Canada (where I'm temporarily living) - while interestingly some of your books cost an arm and a leg - one is over $CA830!! I think I might have to wait til I get back to the UK ... but so delighted Terry enjoyed your book, Val - cheers Hilary

    1. I'm sure Val can find you the link, Hilary - when you publish on Amazon it should be on all sites. I'm a bit surprised by the prices of mine, I can't imagine how that is happening - I have no idea what $CA830 means but I will check. Ta!