Michael Shafto, Port Elizabeth Express

This is a remarkable book from a remarkable writer. Jenny Hobbs is our Anne Tyler, though with a cutting edge somewhat more jagged, less forgiving. She’s our Dickens, too – think Pickwick Papers, its vast cast of characters… Hobbs, who with this offering has written six novels almost without putting a foot wrong, takes an actual event – an alleged sighting several years ago of the Virgin Mary in rural S Africa by a young black girl – and builds her tale around it. Tatty Crocodile Flats is populated by a poor rural community subject to all the ingredients that make S African dorps so unique. The village is coming apart at the seams. It is peopled by the poor, blacks and whites living by their wits… Novelist Hobbs manages somehow to orchestrate many disparate strands, smoothly moulding them into a satisfying melodious whole. The beautify of it is the way she serves it up – so utterly, unapologetically S’African.

The Miracle of Crocodile Flats, by Jenny Hobbs