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FRANSCHHOEK MEMORIES (article first published : 2005-09-11)

Gwen Jennings was a Johannesburger born and bred when she made the big move to the country in 1986, to a Franschhoek Valley that was then truly rural and not yet a rustic haven for weary millionaires from the city.

She lived at Franschhoek for eight years, and Franschhoek Memories, running to 210 pages, is a record of her life during that time. It is an appealing, amusing and often instructive story. Turgenevís Month in the Country may have seemed the longest month in anybodyís experience, but Gwen Jenningsís eight years must have passed very quickly. She lived on a small farm and quickly learned about vines and fruit trees, tractors and dams, house repairs, making jam, visitors from Russia, and how to handle crises such as an unexpected childbirth involving an employee.

Most important of all, she communicated with the locals, and it is the locals who make this book so entertaining. In many cases she has adopted the sound technique of letting them tell their own stories, and the result is an authentic record of a country community that is slowly disappearing as our society changes.

Those who know the Cape country scene of long ago, as I do to some extent, will recognise the veracity and honesty of this book. Gwen Jennings, the mother of three grown-up sons, is an elegant lady, judging by the picture on the back of this book, but she is also a robust personality who doesnít hesitate to call a spade a spade, and her story is all the better for that.

Franschhoek Memories is published by Double Storey Books and retails at R130. - Michael Green




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