Read of the Week

Being Shelley

Qarnita Loxton

Kwela Books

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Qarnita Loxton cleverly pulls off what could have easily become an awkward balancing act in Being Shelley.

In the book, Loxton touches on tricky subjects, such as race, religion, adultery, sexism and sexual harassment, without sounding preachy or condescending. She also manages to make her characters both enduring and infuriating. The story is a delicious bit of escapism that feels like home.

The book is the third in the series about a tight circle of four friends. Each book is written from the perspective of a different, almost polar opposite, friend but carries on the story started in the first, Being Kari, where we first meet the wackadoodle Shelley.

This book picks up the story some time after Being Lily ends. By now Kari and Dirk have moved back from London, the honeymoon phase of Lily and Owen’s marriage has ended and Shelly and Di have opened a high-end coffee shop together.

The intensity of running a business together has started to expose the cracks in their hitherto great friendship.

Shelley’s insecurities are exposed and she starts behaving stupidly, especially when a handsome, half-her-age surf instructor, slash barista, slash hotel school drop-out starts responding to her advances.

This storyline may sound tired but the crisp writing kept me thoroughly engaged. I started reading the series with book two, Being Lily, and disliked the titular character, and by extension the book, so much that I almost didn’t carry on with the series.

I’m glad I kept with it because by the end I could forgive Shelley for being such a nutcase.

Shelley is wild, flamboyant and a bit crass in the first two books and in the beginning of her own book, I found her almost as unlikeable as Lily. However, Loxton skillfully peeled her layers away and by the end of the book I had warmed to her.

The book also felt like a mini tour of Cape Town, taking the readers along with them as the characters travelled from coast to coast, to the winelands, to the gardens, from Blouberg to Muizenberg to Sea Point and back again, dropping the names of familiar places and establishments along the way. Shelley is a Joburger turned Capetonian, so she teasingly laughs at the quirks of Capetonianism.

This book is a quick, easy and entertaining read. It doesn’t have as much heart as Being Kari but does have as much soap-opera-like drama as its predecessors. I enjoyed catching up with the characters again, especially as I only had to endure Lily in small doses.