Written by: Katy Bauer
Published by: Oshun Books
Reviewed by: Lise Day
It is refreshing to read a South African novel that does not deal with the angst-ridden consequences of the notorious Apartheid regime. Neither is it a memoir of growing up in that time, either from the perspective of the privileged white person or the disadvantaged black person. Katy Bauer’s novel "Spite" is set in the hip society of Johannesburg today, where neither skin colour nor sexual preferences are an issue. The only politics are those within the cut throat society of the filmmakers’ world where jealousy and backbiting rule.
The diary genre made so popular by the likes of Bridget Jones allows us to look and laugh at the most intimate thoughts and actions of the narrator. She is attempting to juggle her career with the demands of baby Lulu and her remarkably undemanding, although grumpy, and long-suffering husband, Jo. She is assisted by Ella, the nanny, who must be one of the few constants in little Lulu’s life. The plot involves a desperate attempt to fund, script and enact a short film. Our narrator is responsible for writing the script entitled "A Sense of Uma" (most of the jokes are more subtle than this). She and her friend Ad are spurred on by their envy of Zelda Williams who has recently won an international award for her latest film. The rounds of parties, meetings and interviews that accompany their attempts to get the film project underway lead to many hilarious and often nightmarish situations. The involvement of drugs and drinks do not make the task of lucid script-writing any easier. Although there are many laugh-out-loud passages, this is not merely a comic novel. Bauer has a gift for bringing her quirky characters alive, and the sharp satirical tone is ever present.
Any woman who has tried to combine the roles of wife and mother with any sort of career will sympathise with the narrator. This is a hugely enjoyable novel, ideal for a relaxing read over the Christmas holidays.