By Simphiwe Rens

Book Review: The 30th Candle

Author: Angela Makholwa

Captivating, thrilling and delightfully dramatic, are but some of the attributes I found myself confidently attaching to this page-turner by South African author Angela Makholwa. The 30th Candle is a novel exploring the lives of four girl friends who each bring a wholesome and emotionally-capturing layer to the narrative that Makholwa simplistically yet so elegantly unpacks.
The author’s writing style and approach to the story possesses what I felt to be an authentic familiarity that had me raise my eyebrows and smile to myself a little more than I had anticipated. The countless moments I caught myself gasping for air at some of the shocking twists in the piece are evidence of the exquisite storyteller I think Angela is. A few secrets held by each of the four central characters manages to illustrate just how flawed we are as human being and that, at the same time, captures exactly what makes being human such a roller-coaster ride embroiled with lessons.

The book’s introduction of new characters as the plot develops adds more depth without losing the reader which added to why I couldn’t put the book down till the very last chapter of the story. Makholwa textually carves out personalities so strikingly different yet absolutely complimentary which I think adds to the sincerity of the relationship among these four friends who seem to have a bit of anxiety with regards to approaching the big 3-0 (thirty years of age). Not wanting to give away much, it burns to hold back that a secret kept by one of the ladies – Nolwazi – lingers throughout the book until its dramatic revelation. Sade, who works hard to keep some of her skeletons in the closet, is forced to come to terms with just how much of a farce the idea of a ‘perfect life’ is.

The life lessons and character experiences in the book, I believe, will resonate with a lot of women which makes this book even more aligned with the ‘chick-lit’ genre which has been gaining considerable traction in Africa. There are, I should mention, slight moments of ‘cheesiness’ with respect to how some of the personal narratives play out but I can guarantee you a pleasant and captivating experience overall, my fellow TransAfrican.

My Rating: 7.5/10

If you’re a staunch follower and lover of chick literature you will definitely rate this book higher than the seven and a half I decided to give it. It is incredibly fulfilling in its delivery of dramatic yet insightful stories which, I repeat, will rock your world as a young, urban and highly aspirant TransAfrican woman facing the big 3-0. Gents, as a gift to your female loved ones; this book is definitely an option!

Lesson from the book:

So many experiences run parallel with each other in this book which renders it packed with various lessons. A striking lesson for me, personally, is the novel’s way of teaching us to embrace our past before committing to carving a future that one can be proud of. Overall, instead of trying to hide your demons, face them head-on.

Interesting Fact:

Angela Makholwa’s other two novels, Red Ink and Black Widow Society, have also been published to noteworthy critical acclaim. This talented writer is also the founder of an events, public relations and communications company.