Book reviews and competition

African DaydreamsColin NottOcean Reeve PublishingReview: Karen Watkins

From ranger to safari operator, dealing with droughts to dehorning, African Daydreams details Colin Nott’s stories of success and failure with all its joys and sorrows.

It’s a personal journey of a young game ranger born in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1969.

He enjoyed a privileged childhood where the Zambezi valley became his school holiday playground. It also awakened the wildlife calling in his life as he followed in his dad Graham’s footsteps to become a game ranger after joining National Parks at the age of 17.

Graham had been instrumental in the formation and running of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Investigations Branch.

The stories are grouped into themes: rhino war, adversity in the hills, wildlife management and safaris.

This collection of stories describe the highs of game capture and tracking rhino and their poachers and flying in a doorless helicopter with the anti-poaching team.

They also provide an insight into the challenges of preserving wildlife in Zimbabwe, from confrontations with armed poachers to undercover deals in the illegal trafficking of rhino horn, ivory and even bird eggs.

Post National Parks, the journey continues as Colin shares his passion for the bush with clients as a professional safari guide, conducting tours specialising in walking safaris throughout Zimbabwe for 11 years.

Political turbulence and economic events mark the end of his wildlife career.

Colin now lives with his family in Western Australia but his love for Africa takes him back to the wild places in the final chapter, Going Home.

I SurvivedVictoria CilliersPan MacmillanReview: Karen Watkins

“I married a charming man. Then he tried to kill me.” This is the sub-title of this powerful, gripping true story.

It begins with a detailed account of this advanced free-fall instructor’s plummet 1 200m to the ground as her parachutes fail to open.

The jump had been her husband’s idea. Something they could do together. In the end, he did not join her. Victoria’s mind kept wandering to her two babies waiting at home, 3-year-old April and five-week-old Ben.

Victoria had 2 654 jumps under her belt. There’s a one in 750 chance of a main parachute failing to open. And a one in a million chance of the reserve parachute not opening either.

Drawn by the idea of travelling and adventure, physiotherapist Victoria joined the Ministry of Defence.

While serving in war-torn Kosovo she met her first husband Liam. She eventually divorced him after enduring endless cheating and lies. She was then swept off her feet by charming army man Emile Cilliers, originally from South Africa, who turned out to be even worse. Apart from their joint bank account being drained, she noticed signs of deception as he spent far too much time sending messages from his phone which he kept with him all the time, even when going to the toilet. He was also travelling for work far more than usual.

Cilliers survived the jump but had to undergo months of physiotherapy. She writes honestly about how she persevered with her marriage before the realisation that he not only tampered with her parachute but had previously attempted to kill her.

After a seemingly endless court case and animosity from the public ,Emile Cilliers was eventually convicted of the attempted murder of Victoria in 2018.

A gripping read.

● One lucky reader can win a copy of I Survived. Email your name , phone number and address to before midnight on Sunday April 4. Put “ I Survived” in the subject line of the email.