Home > Uncategorized > “Happiness is a four-letter word” by Cynthia Jele

“Happiness is a four-letter word” by Cynthia Jele

For the last section of Cynthia Jele’s book I struggle through concealing the very hard to conceal fact that I am sobbing. I am sitting on a South African Airways flight and the man beside me is reading some crime thriller; some safe no-tear-inducing page-turner. Me? I’m reading about couples reuniting, couples splitting, druggie boyfriends apologising and wronged husbands forgiving.
Here I admit to being a book snob and thinking I could dismiss “Happiness…” as chic lit. Actually I have learnt that this label is condescending and fraught with its own problems. Have a look at this post on the blog Feminist Philosophers (http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/summing-it-up-nicely/) about the divisive nature of tags like ‘chic lit’.
I digress a bit. My point is the book is wonderfully written and very well deserving of the 2011 Africa Region Commonwealth Writers Best First Book Prize. I had the good fortune of meeting Cynthia and she commented that she was surprised she had won and when she got a chance she approached one of the judges to ask them why! They responded saying, for them it was a book of its time, revealing a South Africa that hadn’t really been glimpsed in print.

I did take ample abrasion to the fact that the Zimbabwean boyfriend happens to be the drug-addict, this remains a moot point for me. Considering our history and how much exposure the story has gotten and will continue to get, does the author ruffle the use of this stereotype in the book enough? I don’t think so and I find that careless.
It might not be a book I would write but I found myself, as I read it, being glad (even grateful) that Cynthia had. Even more exciting is the news that a movie of “Happiness…” is in the early stages of being crafted. Well done Cynthia Jele and my lesson – you can’t judge a book by its genre.

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