Young, beautiful and ambitious, Bontle Tau has Johannesburg wrapped around her finger. Her generous admirers are falling over themselves to pay for her Mercedes, her penthouse, and her Instagrammable holidays. It’s her duty to look fabulous – after all, people didn’t sacrifice their lives in the freedom struggle for black women to wear the same cheap T-shirts they wore during apartheid.
Bontle’s come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. Her shrink keeps wanted to talk about a past she’s put firmly behind her. And what she doesn’t think about can’t hurt her, can it?
Blessed adj. [pronounced bles-id]
The state of being blessed, often referring to a person, usually female, who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, often married partner, in return for sexual favours.
The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa is a darkly comic tale about mental health, men, sex and wanting wealth at all costs. The humour is razor sharp, so much so you could cut your fingers as you turn the pages, but that adds to the fact that it is a powerful, perceptive and ultimately empowering read.
On the surface Bontle Tau is a semi successful, but an always aspiring entrepreneur, whose funds her lavish lifestyle by having sex with older men! Now you might wonder how this can then be reviewed as a comedy and I can understand why! But, it is important to remember that comedy can be born from the darkest of themes, it’s not crude, important given the nature of some of the themes, but it does come from the idea that suffering and pain can be absurd, but never pitiable! What the writer does with such skill in The Blessed Girl is take serious subjects and uses the humour to tell a story, that could be without the black comedy become overwhelming. She balances a a story about exploitation, not just by the men who fund Bontle’s lifestyle, but by the character herself and creates a deeply moving tale about a young woman, who past influences her present in damaging ways, but at the same time allows her to live a life away from poverty, but at what cost to her?
She is a character that you come to love as the story progresses, the writer opening her up to the reader and explaining both her life choices and the events that have shaped her life, her opinion of herself and own self worth. It is often a painful read and you come to yearn that she will eventually see that she is worth both respect from others, but importantly from herself, for Bontle Tau is a wonderful creation. The pain comes from her struggle with her own mental health and the past, the humour from moments such as her asking the reader why they are questioning if she knows anything about construction! Her reply, what did Donald Trump know about being a President, which I admit made me laugh and rebalanced a story that is very dark in places.
I have no doubt that The Blessed Girl will feature in my list of favourite books this year. The writer is not scared to tackle a story about a deeply flawed character, to make you love her and best of all, to make you laugh with her, never at her. Angela Makholwa succeeded in making her venerable, yet strong, funny and endearing and I hope many other readers come to love her as much as I do!
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About the author
Angela Makholwa is a South African author, the first black writer to write crime fiction in South Africa.