Author(s): Marion Molteno
Beautifully written, entertaining and moving, this book won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book from the Africa region. The story of a young woman's life on the run across frontiers, cultures and life-styles - and an exploration of the power of music.
As a politically naïve student, Jennie suddenly has to flee her native South Africa with a boyfriend she had almost decided to leave - to be stranded as an exile in neighbouring Swaziland. Fending for herself in a new culture, she discovers ways of living and a kind of music that she connects with unexpectedly strongly.
As the story moves between Africa and 1970s London, it weaves the music of different cultures through the patterns of work and love and politics in which she tries to find a meaning in her everyday life.
Winner of Commonwealth Writer's Prize Best Book Africa 1999 and Commonwealth Writers Prize 1999.
'Suffused with the colours of Africa and the sounds of song, this is an exhilarating book that celebrates the power of music as universal language, healer, political tool - the thread that links humankind across cultures and continents.'--Diana Burrell, composer.
'Epic breadth and intimate detail combines to build to a poignant crescendo.'--Sunday Times
'An ambitious and gripping story. Her eloquent exploration of what music can mean in life is handled with a zest that outshines most of this year’s cacophony of musically-themed fiction.'--The Independent
Marion Molteno was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1944, and left South Africa in 1965 after being involved in student protests against the apartheid regime.
Her short story collection, A Language in Common (1987), reflects the experiences of the first generation of South Asian women in Britain. 'The Bracelets' a story on a similar theme, was a winner in the London short story competition (1995). Her first novel, A Shield of Coolest Air (1992), which won the 1993 David Thomas Award, was set among Somali refugees in London. If You Can Walk You Can Dance (1998), which won the 1999 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book in the Africa region, is the story of a young woman's life on the run across frontiers and life-styles, and also an exploration of the power of music. Her latest novel, Somewhere More Simple (2007), is set on the Isles of Scilly and explores relationships among outsiders in a small community cut off from the mainland.
She has written and lectured widely on issues of education and development. For sixteen years she was an adult education organizer with multi-ethnic communities in the London borough of Croydon, where she pioneered new approaches in language teaching, set up the South London Refugee Project, and campaigned for the teaching of minority languages in schools. She studied Urdu at the School of Oriental and African Studies and has for many years worked closely with the Urdu scholar, Ralph Russell.
From 1993 to 2007 she was a policy advisor to the international development charity Save the Children, where she supported staff who work with disadvantaged children in over 50 countries. The books which grew out of this experience have been translated into many languages and are used across the world.