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Gem Squash Tokoloshe [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Rachel Zadok
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Sep 2005

She just sat there hardly moving, staring at the drive. Black marks formed under her eyes where her lashes bled their waxy coating onto her skin. Her rouged cheeks were smudged. Mother looked like she was melting in the heat.

Faith leads an isolated existence on her family’s drought stricken farm in the Northern Transvaal of South Africa. When the rain stopped, her father took to the road as a travelling salesman, returning only at weekends. Now Faith lives with her mother Bella and dog Boesman anticipating his visits - until one day he stops coming and Bella’s health begins to go into rapid decline.

Fifteen years later Bella has died incarcerated in the Sterkfontein asylum for the criminally insane. Faith has not spoken to her mother for ten years and is on the brink of a breakdown of her own. Now, with her mother’s death, she inherits the farm and must return to confront the dark mysteries of the past . . .

In prose as lithe and imaginative as that of Alexandra Fuller, Rachel Zadok te Riele recreates the voice of a young girl growing up during the height of apartheid unrest in South Africa. As Faith struggles to make sense of the complex world in which she lives and come to terms with the beliefs her society and upbringing have inculcated in her, what emerges is a richly compelling, emotionally resonant tale of courage set against the backdrop of a chaotically divided and deeply beautiful country.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; First Edition edition (16 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330441191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330441193
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 635,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


The language is intense, lyrical and absorbing: it unfolds a compulsive story -- The Telegraph

Where did they find so many excellent unpublished writers?...Magic twines around reality like ivy on the bark of a tree -- The Times

About the Author

Rachel Zadok grew up in Johannesburg. She studied Fine Art and worked as a freelance graphic designer and then a waitress while pursuing a career as a writer. She lives in South London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gem Squashed 10 July 2006
I chose this book because the title caught my attention (having grown up in South Africa, the title transported me back to childhood days when evidence of the 'Tokolshe' was everywhere!).

Unfortunately I felt a little disappointed about half way through the book. It's one of those stories that is littered with stereotypes and even though I found her writing very descriptive and enjoyable I thought the characters were one dimensional. I would have liked a little more insight into each character and felt I was never given the chance to fully understand or feel for any of the characters (even though the potential was there.)

It's one of those books where we know the ending before the protagonist - and I found that to be quite frustrating in places primarily because the story moves at quite a slumbered pace. There also seem to be places in the book where the author got a bit 'stuck' (for want of a better word) and wasn't quite sure how to move the story forwards.

I did enjoy the book though and I especially enjoyed all the references to places and things in South Africa that reminded me of my childhood. I think it's a fantastic first effort but it's most definitely not in the same league as other more seasoned writers exploring the subject of apartheid and life in SA.

I'm not certain whether I would recommend it to a friend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey 17 Feb 2010
If you didn't grow up in South Africa and you haven't been broken in life, I don't think you can fully appreciate the significance of this book...It's not about colour, but about the loss and subsequent impact and guilt of significant people one's life. Read it slowly at the end - and then the beginning again - and maybe you'll understand the heartfelt suffering of a brilliantly confused child. Sad yes, but is there glory in one's pain and sadness? Yes!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical madness 19 Sep 2005
I am South African and it is a great pleasure to read a book written by a South African author that deviates from the usual heavy political subjects. In stead, this is a touching story that uses the setting of an 'old' and 'new' South Africa to help tell a tale of loneliness, love, imagination and self discovery. In the 'old' SA we meet and accompany a young, isolated and confused little girl through her heart-rending misguided childhood. Bit by bit her little world is torn apart, each dark and devious event leads us up to an awful tragedy. Later, in a changing 'new' SA we follow her emotional journey until she finds truth and reconciliation for her past.
This is an honest, sometimes uneasy, imaginative journey that involves the magic and madness of a faerie world. The enchanting prologue and epilogue are told in a devilish tongue and frames this chilling fairy tale perfectly.
I loved it!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book 18 Sep 2005
By A Customer
Rachel Zadok explores the dilemmas of a little girl growing up in the heart of the South African countryside. Her life is about to change as much as her country, and her journey is going to be just as difficult. As easy to read as The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time, yet as aware of the difficulties of her country as Coetzee- it's a magical book.
I'm a nervous flyer, yet this book gripped me so much on a flight I totally forgot about the turbulence.
It's a journey you'll never forget. Buy it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great book 8 Oct 2005
ther are only a handful of books that make you regret ever finishing.
gem squash tokolosh is one of those.
Interesting, poetic, sad and wise.
walking through the farm with faith, yoy can't but fall in love with her.
twined with the pulse of africa, this is a human story that taks you away to a different sphere all together.
a great read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmoshperic and insightful 7 Oct 2008
I found this book full of atmosphere and insight. The book is written about tragic events following a family break-up on a small farm in South Africa viewed from a young girl's perspective who grows up and revisits the events through adult eyes. The portrayal of childhood fears and misunderstanding of the adult world seems very realistic. The book is very atmospheric, well written and captures the imagination. Beware the Tokoloshe!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mother and Daughter 28 Oct 2008
A child growing up on a farm in S. Africa with her mother, Bella. With her father often away on long trips, Faith is left under the influence of her mother and the fairy world her mother has invented. The disappearance od her father after a fight causes Bella to finally snap.
Now an adult, Faith is still tied to the past, a past she doesn't really understand.

A good read, set against the backdrop of S. Africa's recent past.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly good 20 July 2008
There are some books that stay with you for a very long time. Unsurprisingly, it was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize, and is the kind of debut novel that makes you wonder how a first time writer could be that good. Make no mistake: this is powerful stuff - beautifully painted, deeply moving, rendered as only a great writer can. Get a copy and immerse yourself in Rachel Zadok's imaginative, dark world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and beautiful
The clever and arty use of descriptive prose conjures a complete and detailed image of a place I've never seen. Read more
Published on 15 April 2009 by Rebecca
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak weak weak
Contrived stereotype characters. Written by someone with preconceptions and lack of empathy for some of the subjects, many of the caricatures rang false. Read more
Published on 27 Oct 2008 by iliketowatch
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably assured first novel
I found this book totally engrossing, from the deeply creepy beginning to the shock near the end (well it came as a shock to me, but perhaps I am rather slow). Read more
Published on 15 April 2006 by allwillbewell
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!
Being South African and growing up with much of what Zadok describes, I found the story easy to follow and despite being so sad a worthwhile read. Read more
Published on 5 April 2006 by Mrs. Ruth Levine
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning start
If the first few pages don't make you want to know how this story ends I'll be amazed. The writer really gets into the scary parts of being a child witnessing something... Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2006 by Betty and Lucy
2.0 out of 5 stars What a depressing story!
I don't mind stories with sad bits in them, or sad endings, but I found this whole book depressing. Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
I picked up this book with no real expectation, Started reading it with a smile, and finished reading it avidly, wanting to know more, wanting to get to the end, but at the same... Read more
Published on 16 Nov 2005 by I. Locheron
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