Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Cape Town Book by Nechama Brodie #review

Title: The Cape Town Book
Author: Nechama Brodie
Publisher: Struik Travel & Heritage
Reviewer: Nerine Dorman

Though I’m a born-and-bred Capetonian, and reckoned I was au fait with everything I thought I knew about the Mother City, Nechama Brodie opened my eyes to quite a lot about my stomping ground that was fresh. This is a big book in more than one way – not only considering its physical dimensions but also the depth and breadth of its content. The Cape Town Book covers not only the city’s natural history and geography, but also tells the story of the many people who have lived around the slopes of Table Mountain.

Cape Town’s history stretches much further back than that of the refreshment station established by the Dutch back in the 1600s, and as such, the city has been shaped by the devastating effects of colonialism. Cape Town is thus a melting pot where Africa meets Asia and Europe, and though many of its people’s stories bear testimony to a legacy of inequalities, they are nonetheless fascinating and I feel enriched by having discovered them.

For me, in particular, this book filled many gaps that were omitted from my history lessons during my school days. In particular, I found the history of Islam in Cape Town fascinating – I really had no idea so many Muslim saints were buried here. The realisation of exactly how intrinsic the slave trade was to the city during its early days was also a revelation – much of this had been glossed over me. Brodie goes in depth with apartheid history, and the section about Robben Island in particular is both terrible and fascinating.

The Cape Town Book is jam packed with information and illustrated in full colour with plenty of visuals, including photos and reproductions of historical prints, as well as helpful suggestions for further reading. Scattered throughout is advice on places to visit and supplementary information panels. Not only is this a great book for visitors to the Mother City, but with its stunning layout and well-planned format, it’s exactly the kind of hefty tome that deserves a permanent place in my collection.

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