Book Review: Saracen at the Gates

Book Review: Saracen at the Gates by Zinaid Meeran

Saracen at the Gates is available at Lobby Books for R150

What happens when the self-declared princess of Johannesburg’s curry mafia falls head-over-heels, if rather unexpectedly, in love with a radical activist “coconut” girl? When Zakira, the heiress-to-be of a wealthy Indian bakery and shady business empire, meets Sofie, the political firebrand and libertarian daughter of a gentle academic, both of their lives take some entirely unanticipated turns. Zinaid Meeran’s gallivanting and OTT novel, which won the 2008/09 European Union Literary Award, is a hilarious satire that illuminates the frictions of religion and tradition within one of Jozi’s most colourful, but also incestuous and myopic cultural enclaves.

Meet Zakira and her shopaholic, alcohol-swilling, drug popping, Islamic entourage as they hold court at the local Milky Lane, her neurotic Mommy, her unhinged twin brother Zakir and her pillar-of-the-community diabetic Daddy: one fractious and lovingly dysfunctional family. Meeran’s prose is funny, witty and eminently readable. The swashbuckling plot of Saracen at the Gates will keep you guessing at the outcome of Zakira and Sofie’s entanglement until the very last page.

Andreas Späth, Idasa

Saracen at the Gates is available at Lobby Books for R150.


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