Come inside my world where all I do is read and read lots and lots of romance..............................

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

'Saffron Skies' by Lesley Lokko

‘Saffron Skies’ is the follow-up to Lesley Lokko’s blockbuster debut ‘Sundowners‘. It focuses on Amber and Paola, the two daughters of self-made millionaire Max Sall. Amber is the ambitious, driven high-achiever determined to follow in her father’s footsteps and Paola has been groomed by her gold-digging mother to find a wealthy man to marry her. Although they are the polar opposites of one another, Paola and Amber have one thing in common. A fancy for Max’s associate Tende, a South African who works for the government.

This is a very well-written novel, some might call it ‘intelligent chick lit’ (let’s be clear, ‘some’ not ‘me’). The novel spans five decades, giving us Max’s history and his daughters’ futures. ‘Saffron Skies’ deals with some very serious topics. One of the main issues raised is racism, and the struggle that has been going on for years in South Africa. Lokko herself is a native of Ghana and she has a great understanding of the issue. I myself learned quite a lot about apartheid from this novel. There is also rape, abortion, incest, you name it, it’s here. And it’s all dealt with very well.

There is a very strong political feel to this book. It is clear that Lokko is trying to get a message across. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m intelligent enough to figure out what that message is. Or maybe I wasn’t in the frame of mind to read such a serious novel. I picked up ‘Saffron Skies’ thinking this would be an easy beach read, but what I found required much more concentration than I was prepared to give.

My favourite character in this book is Amber, and I think the author has set out to make it this way. She has had a lot to deal with growing up, a cold father and an alcoholic mother. She strives for perfection, she wants to be the best. She works hard, she is a good friend and she has sense, unlike Paola. She finds herself drawn to Tende, whom she meets at one of her father’s grand parties. They fall in love, much to the disgust of both Paola and Max. But it is a lovely relationship, and I enjoyed watching it develop. There is a considerable lack of chemistry between the two though, and for those of you who like your erotica, you won’t find it here.

Paola, like I said before, is the polar opposite of Amber. Her mother Francesca fell pregnant to Max while working as a stewardess. Max went on to divide his time between Italy and England, being the father of two families, though Paola knows that she is the one who’s illegitimate. Even though she is vain, spoilt and very selfish, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Paola. She hadn’t a chance of becoming a well-rounded human being. All she knew was a cold as ice father and a frighteningly selfish mother. So it isn’t any wonder that Paola’s life becomes one made up of mistakes.

Besides Amber and Paola, there is Madeline and Becky, her two childhood friends. Though, they don’t have as much room as Amber, they are well developed, likeable and they have their own issues to deal with. And I became very caught up with them, particularly Madeline.

Tende, although I liked him, was not the most developed character in this book. He was lost in the politics of ‘Saffron Skies’. Whenever we meet him, he is involved with something to do with the struggle in South Africa. So we don’t see much of him as one person.

I found Max to be a fascinating character. And quite sexy. He had the whole ruthless thing going on that I find quite appealing (maybe that’s something I should worry about). What I found so fascinating was that we as readers get to see the real Max. We get to see how he becomes the cold, ruthless millionaire that his family know. And I actually found myself sympathising with him. Like Paola, he didn’t really have a hope. After fleeing from Germany in 1939, the Jewish Max was left to seek work on the streets of London, dirt-poor and foreign. He soon learned what to do and what not to do to become accepted. And the things that he had to do required a very cold heart. Throughout the novel we are given glimpses of the man Max could have been, and these glimpses are what probably caused me the most upset in this novel.

‘Saffron Skies’ was a good read. Lokko does a fine job at narrating the story, the glamorous locations give the book an international feel, and it was very interesting. I only have a couple of complaints.

Though I liked the characters, I didn’t find myself sucked into their world, I didn’t become as involved in the story as I would have liked to be. I think this was because too much emphasis was placed on the issues raised instead of the characters. I was able to leave the book for days without going back to it and this is never a good sign.

Also, while reading ’Saffron Skies’ I felt that I was reading ’Sundowners’ all over again. Very similar themes are present in both books and I think in a few weeks time I will have trouble distinguishing between the two of them.

All in all a good book. If you are looking for a novel that will give you glamour along with something to think about, I suggest you pick up this book here.

Rating: 30/50
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