Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)

by Sandy Balfour

Sunday, August 17, 2003

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This book is listed as “a memoir of love, exile and crosswords”. I came for the crosswords but I stayed for the love and the exile. This caught my eye when it was heavily reviewed when it came out a few months ago, I put it on my list of “books to look for when they turn up in paperback” but recently decided to reserve it at the library instead.

It’s pretty good stuff, not my usual fare, but I do enjoy biography and especially autobiography so long as it’s not coupled with celebrity. Balfour tells his life story from the point where he leaves South Africa aged twenty one to avoid having to join the army up to his fortieth birthday last year. Crosswords bind the whole tale together and make what might have been an interesting read anyway into an absorbing one.

Balfour refers to his girlfriend all the way through the book as just that “my girlfriend” - a little odd but quite endearing in the end. I did wonder whether the lack of a first name was because the name changed over the years but I really don’t think it did, I think the girlfriend who leaves South Africa with him is the same one he’s still with twenty years later.

I should really read more “cover-to-cover” non fiction.