I picked up this book, intrigued by its title: The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg. I felt drawn in by the premise, (the book is set in Rhodesia in the late 1970s, just before it becomes the Zimbabwe we know today) where two girls live in a magical, innocent, yet dangerous world.
This book was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2008, and I found out why. The writing is rich, lyrical, without being sentimental or overwhelming, and draws a vivid picture of its setting. I love lines like:
The rainy season has begun and the nights, swollen and sullen, are lanced by dark, spiny curtains of rain. It is raining too, on the day he comes to the Vumba.
Without spoiling the story, I can only say that towards the middle, the story lost me because it added too many stories of the smaller characters…but I came back. The very charm of the book is that like the setting it describes, it harbors an an overpowering fecundity, and excess of small, often unsettling details.
If you like Allende, you might like Liebenberg. I know I did, even though I felt a little suffocated by the tropical atmosphere and the somewhat oppressive ending of the book.