Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Angela Makholwa
Pan Mamillan

The stakes are high in Angela Makholwa’s latest book — her fourth since launching her career as a novelist about 10 years ago.

Makholwa has cemented her position as one of the most prolific writers in the country and has the rare ability to weave contemporary issues into her novels. Her latest, The Blessed Girl, focuses on socioeconomic issues.

The novel is about a young woman from Mamelodi in Pretoria who uses her looks to propel herself into the bedrooms of wealthy businessmen. In return, they shower her with expensive gifts and fly her around the world.

As in almost all relationships of this nature, these men are married and do not know that their woman on the side is not being faithful to them either.

In essence, the novel talks to the controversial issue of blessers. Makholwa has created characters who are believable, and through their shenanigans, she explores this phenomenon that is rife but despised.

Such affairs tend to be unbalanced, putting the young women involved at a disadvantage as they have little choice in designing and
defining the nature of the relationships. This is because
of the transactional nature of the affairs, complicated further by the secrecy in which they are conducted. The men fear exposure, particularly to their wives and families. And after the affairs are found out, it almost always results in heartache and can destroy families.

The young women are often willing partners as they are rewarded handsomely with gifts in return for their services. These relationships are not far removed from prostitution, some argue.

In the short term, the affairs are like a fantasy world for younger women, with some getting an opportunity to live in luxury apartments, while lucrative business deals are organised for them.

In The Blessed Girl, the central character lives it up with luxury cars and apartments bought for her, and government tenders are rigged in her favour by the men in her life who cannot resist her looks.

"My name is Bontle Tau. The first thing you will notice about me is my honeycomb complexion, my almond-shaped eyes, the mole on the right corner of my mouth and my luscious lips. From a very young age, I knew that I was exceptionally beautiful," she boasts in the opening lines of the novel.

Other characters include Teddy Bear, a corrupt government bureaucrat working for a Limpopo rural municipality as a chief financial officer; Mr Emmanuel, a Nigerian oil baron who regularly travels between Lagos and Johannesburg for business and pleasure; Uncle Chino, a morally corrupt relative of Bontle’s; Papa Jeff, a black economic empowerment Johannesburg businessman: Bontle’s long-suffering husband Ntokozo; and her old friends Tsholo and Iris.

Teddy Bear, Mr Emmanuel and Papa Jeff make Bontle’s world spin as they shower her with expensive gifts, set her up in business and help her to travel the world.

The Mamelodi-born beauty gets to shop like there is no tomorrow and is introduced to a world that she never imagined existed.

But this world evaporates when Bontle loses her looks and her health.

This is a well thought-out and brilliantly written novel, worth an investment in time and money.