Book review: I see London, I see France

CAUTION: Spoilers ahead!

In 2017 I had the incredible privilege to undertake a great European road trip with my husband and parents. For nearly four weeks, we hopped from country to country, ticking things off our bucket lists at every stop. Mom wanted castles and culture, dad wanted nature and walking, my husband wanted to bump fists with statues of musical greats and visit their homes, my own pleasure is art, literature, fairytales and magic. We all wanted wine, great food and to experience something new together. And we did, everywhere we went.
But while backpacking, or road-tripping, through Europe is the adventure of a lifetime for anyone, what makes it life-altering is not so much about where you go as it is about who you go with. Which brings me to I see London, I see France by Sarah Mlynowski.

The book follows first year college (university) students/best friends Sydney and Leela on their great European adventure.
This is the trip they’ve both been dreaming of ever since they started reading books as teenagers. They have a bucket list of their own to work on, complete with stinky cheese and high tea, but they also have to budget to make it through four and a half weeks of traveling.
Each of them also come to the experience with an extra piece of baggage: Leela is recently broken up with her college boyfriend, with whom she was supposed to go on this epic trip. Sydney leaves behind an agoraphobic mother with her sister who, despite having grown up in the same household, just doesn’t get what it takes to take care of someone who fears leaving the safety of their own environment. The story is told from Sydney’s POV, and everywhere we follow her, so does her guilt over abandoning her fragile mother and teenage sister. But it is only for four and a half weeks, she constantly reminds us, and she said she’d go straight back if either of her selfish family members can’t deal with her absence.
Speaking of selfish, the really selfish person is Sydney’s best friend and travel partner, Leela. Not only does she count on Sydney to do all the planning, but she repeatedly changes her mind about where to go and about who she would or wouldn’t like to share in the experience. That is because, despite the breakup that caused Leela and boyfriend Matt’s plans to fall through, Matt and friend Jackson follow in Sydney and Leela’s wake on a trip of their own. This complicates matters to no end and is also the main plot-twist in the book, because it turns out Jackson is both easy on the eye and an interesting, if not exciting, travel companion, and Matt and Leela have unfinished business. Throw in selfish Leela’s jealousy over Sydney’s new college friend, Kat, and you’ve got yourself a story with plenty of intrigue, twists and turns and a few OMFG moments to boot. But it wasn’t the story so much that had me riveted. Not that it wasn’t riveting, it was. It was just that, truth to be told, once Sydney and Leela started going places, trying new foods and experiencing new countries and cities, I was there again, or for the first time, experiencing Europe as though it was as new to me as to the two characters portrayed in the book. And I thought what a marvelous job Sarah Mlynowski had done with the thing that some would consider secondary to the story; the traveling. At every twist and turn in the book I thought: ‘Poor Sydney! If only she could have done this with her mother like I did,’ or ‘Poor Leela, if only she would see how much work her friend put into trying to make this trip awesome for her,’ and I walked up narrow staircases with them and snapped selfies of great tourist attractions with them and when I put the book down, it was as though I had just returned from Europe again with my family, who had trusted me so completely to plan a trip that on the day we left for Europe, they still had no idea where we were off to. And it was magical and romantic and new and exciting and fun. Lots of fun. Both times.
So if you haven’t done the Great European Adventure yet, choose your travel partner(s) carefully. And read ‘I see London, I see France’. You can call it research. Or you can just experience the great European adventure, which is what this book is. Don’t go to Europe and act like Leela. Be the better friend, the traveler who is open to new experiences, the person who eats the snails even though they look disgusting. And if you ever go see a sex-show in Amsterdam, don’t be the idiot who gets up on stage with the performers. Be the idiot who takes video proof to show that you were there, then deletes it, to show that you care.

My travel companions, waiting for the bus in Florence, Italy.

Happy travels!

My short stories now available on Scribd!

If you’re a reader, which I sincerely hope you are, then you’ll have heard of Scribd by now. If you haven’t, here’s the low-down: Scribd is a subscription service for all things bookish and a lovely way to pay a little for a lot of reading material. Each month, for only $8.99 you get *unlimited access to their large catalogue of books, magazines, audiobooks and documents, which can be accessed from your phone, tablet or computer at your convenience! And now, to make the deal even sweeter, my short stories are available for Scribd subscribers both in Afrikaans and English! The full “Nuwe Stories” short story series (Afrikaans Edition) is available for your reading pleasure. The series consists of three anthologies: Nuwe Stories, Nuwe Stories 2 and Nuwe Stories 3, each comprising a collection of Afrikaans language short stories from millennial writers such as myself. And of course my own short stories are there too. Look out for “Onder die Brug” (Nuwe Stories), “‘n Kis vir Boel” (Nuwe Stories 2) and “Utopia” (Nuwe Stories 3).

Nuwe Stories, ISBN 9780798156448. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 2 – ISBN: 9780798164627. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 3, ISBN: 9780798167987. Now available on Scribd!

If Afrikaans isn’t really your thing, I have a special treat for readers of the slightly more widely spoken English language. My latest short story, “Hot Wheels“, is now also available on Scribd.

Hot Wheels: A Short Story. ISBN: 9780463642849.
Now available on Scribd!

So get clicking and start reading, and remember, if you liked what you read, review and recommend!

Get your Scribd subscription here. Click on the book names above to read each book on Scribd.

Happy reading!

Nuwe Stories 2014 Kortverhaalkompetisie kortlys: Eerste weergawes

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Die eerste weergawes van die verhale wat die Nuwe Stories 2014 Kortverhaalwedstryd se kortlys gehaal het is nou beskikbaar om te lees op Litnet. Een van Christina van Deventer se verhale is ook op hierdie jaar se kortlys. Kortlyskandidate werk nou saam met twee van Suid Afrika se voorste taal-kundiges, Leti Kleyn en Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, om hul verhale af te rond vir publikasie. Die finale weergawes van die verhale sal in die Nuwe Stories 3 bundel opgeneem word. Die bundel word later vanjaar, in November 2014 deur Human & Rousseau gepubliseer. Klik gerus hier om die verhale op Litnet.co.za te lees.

 

The first versions of the short stories that made the Nuwe Stories 2014 shortlist are now available to be read (in Afrikaans) on Litnet.co.za. One of Christina van Deventer’s short stories are also on this year’s shortlist. Shortlist-candidates are currently working together with some of South Africa’s foremost language specialists, Leti Kleyn and Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, in order to refine their short stories for final publication. The final versions of their short stories will be published in the Nuwe Stories 3 short story collection. The book, which appears later this year in November 2014, will be published by Human & Rousseau. Click here to read the shortlisted stories at Litnet.co.za.

PEN Afrikaans Jong Stemme Kompetisie wenverhaal

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Christina van Deventer, was in 2013 een van die twee nasionale wenners vir die PEN Afrikaans Jong Stemme Kortverhaal Kompetisie vir skrywers onder dertig. PEN bied weer hierdie jaar die geleentheid aan jong skrywers om deel te neem aan die gesogte kompetisie. Die wenner(s) se verhale word ingeskryf vir die PEN International Young Voices kompetisie waarin meeste wereldlande se PEN verenigings verteenwoordig word deur een of twee jong skrywers binne hul verskeie landsgrense. Die PEN kompetisie vir Suid Afrika sluit eersdaags, op die 6e Mei, 2014. Meer inligting oor die kompetisie kan hier verkry word. Lees ook Christina se wenverhaal hier.

Christina van Deventer was one of the two national winners in the PEN Afrikaans Young Voices Competition 2013. This year PEN once again offers young writers under the age of 30 the opportunity to participate in this sought after competition. The winners’ stories will be entered into the PEN International Young Voices Competition in which most countries in the world are represented by one or two writers chosen by their local PEN organization. The PEN Afrikaans Young Voices  Competition is still open for entries until the 6th May, 2014. More information about the competition can be viewed here. Read Christina’s winning entry here (only available in Afrikaans).

 

Nuwe Stories 3 kortlys aangekondig

Die Nuwe Stories 3 Kortlyskandidate.  Foto verkry vanaf www.litnet.co.za

Die Nuwe Stories 3 Kortlyskandidate.
Foto verkry vanaf www.litnet.co.za

Dit is vir my ‘n groot eer om weereens hierdie jaar deel te wees van die NB Uitgewers/Human & Rousseau Nuwe Stories Kortverhaal Kompetisie kortlys.

Die kompetisie word hierdie jaar vir die derde keer aangebied met die doelstelling om jong skryftalent (onder 30) op te spoor en te ontgin. Lees meer oor die kortlyskandidate asook die bundel by Litnet.co.za deur hier te klik. Baie geluk aan alle kortlyskandidate!

Ek agter die skerms en Nuwe Stories 2 beskikbaar vir Kindle

Die Nuwe Stories 2 skrywers by die bekendstellingspartytjie in Kaapstad.

Die Nuwe Stories 2 skrywers by die bekendstellingspartytjie in Kaapstad.


Hier volg ´n onlangse onderhoud met Litnet na die publikasie van Nuwe Stories 2 in November 2013.

Nuwe Stories-kortverhaalwedstryd 2013: Onderhoud met Christina van Deventer

Naomi Bruwer, Christina van Deventer

Vertel ons lesers meer van jou verhaal/verhale wat in Nuwe Stories 2 opgeneem is.

My verhaal, “’n Kis vir Boel”, handel oor ’n hond wat ’n jong seun doodbyt. Wanneer dit duidelik word dat die hond aan ’n swart man behoort wat sedert die gebeure vermis is, raak die hele gemeenskap betrokke en is die hond se lewe op die spel.

Ná die aanvanklike keuring het jy die geleentheid gehad om die kortverhaal persgereed te kry met die hulp van raad en keurverslae. Hoe het jy hierdie proses ervaar?

Ek het die proses geniet. Die keurder se verslae was op die man af en die voorgestelde leesstof was interessant en aktueel. My enigste “negatiewe” kommentaar op die proses is dat ek graag kritiek van albei keurders sou wou ontvang, aangesien dit moontlik die ontwikkeling van my verhaal verder
sou verdiep.

Wat is die beste skryfraad waarvan jy al ooit gehoor of gelees het en wat jy probeer om self toe te pas?

Lees. Dit is moontlik ook die grootste hindernis om te oorkom, want ’n mens is geneig om fiksie vir ontspanning te lees. Selfs wanneer ek ontledend lees, raak ek ná ’n hoofstuk of twee meegesleur deur die verhaal (as dit ’n goeie een is) en vergeet ek om op te let na die nuanses. Ongeag daarvan dink ek dat dít wat jy lees in jou onderbewussyn saamgesleep word en ’n uitwerking op jou skryfwerk het, selfs al is dit net deur taalgebruik. Ek het aanvanklik gedink ’n mens moenie so baie lees nie, want dan begin jy soos ander skryf. Ek het intussen my opinie verander.

Die ander skryfraad is die ou een “skrywers skryf”. Baie suksesvolle skrywers sê hulle kan bloot elke ses maande ’n boek op die rakke sit omdat hulle elke dag skryf. Om elke dag te skryf, klink maklik genoeg, maar dit is nie. Dit verg toewyding en dissipline. Ek raak al beter in hierdie opsig, maar dit is ’n roetine wat ’n mens moeilik aanleer, veral omdat die lewe geneig is om tussenbeide te tree.

Wie is die skrywers wie se werk jy die graagste lees, en waarom hou jy van hulle werk?

Ek lees graag die groot kokkedore van Engelstalige ontspanningsfiksie: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton, ensovoorts. Ek is baie meer kieskeurig wanneer dit by Afrikaanse fiksie kom en lees selde of ooit ’n boek net omdat dit deur iemand geskryf is van wie se vorige boek ek gehou het. Ek word maklik visueel beïnvloed: As die boek ’n aantreklike buiteblad het, sal ek dit koop sonder om spesifiek op te let wie die skrywer is. Dan gaan ek huis toe, lees, en besef/besluit agterna dat hierdie skrywer meer aandag verdien. Dus lees ek in Afrikaans oor die hele spektrum, van Sophia Kapp en Isa Konrad tot PG du Plessis en, meer onlangs, Deon Meyer. Dit is vir my moeilik om iemand spesifieks uit te lig, want ek geniet amper enige skryfwerk wat goed afgerond is en maklik lees, selfs romanse en niefiksie. My enigste vereiste is dat die boek goed moet eindig – ek lees gewoonlik die laaste bladsy in die boek voor ek besluit of ek dit koop. Dit maak dit interessant om dan uit te vind hoe die skrywer en karakters daarby uitgekom het.

Het jy enige verdere planne vir jou skrywersloopbaan?

Ek weet nie of mens regtig in hierdie verband planne kan maak nie. Ek skryf dít wat my hart my forseer om te skryf en hoop dan maar agterna dat daar ’n ontvangslokaal daarvoor sal wees. Ek hoop om as skrywer te ontwikkel en dat mense byval sal vind by my skryfwerk, maar net die tyd sal leer of daar wel ’n skrywersloopbaan op my horison is.

Vind meer uit oor my deelname aan Nuwe Stories 2 deur hier te klik.

As jy nog nie ´n kans gehad het om die bundel in die hande te kry nie, gaan gerus na Amazon vir die Kindle weergawe, of na Kalahari vir die “paperback”.