There is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a good story, reflecting upon that last sentence – those words that seem to carry more meaning than any other sentence contained within the pages of the book – and allowing it to wash over you with a wave of emotions. There is always a subtle sense of sadness at the end, a quiet death, as if the lives of the characters in the story cease to exist with the closing of the book’s covers.
I began reading “Freedom”, by Jonathan Franzen, while at the farm in the Free State, and having just finished reading it, I am now thinking back to the time spent on the farm and how nice it felt to be removed, for the most part, from modern-day life. I am brought back to our trip to Clarens, a charming little village that provided us with just the right dose of city life, with its art galleries and craft beer, made even more charming in the glow of autumn’s colours: a bright canvas of oranges, yellows, and reds against Lesotho’s snow-capped mountains. The surprising chill in the air in the evenings at the farm, the warmth of the sun in the daytime, and the simple pleasure of spending time with family and friends, quietly fishing, riding horses, or sitting by the fire, has me longing to go back. As much as I enjoy city life, the countryside has always been romanticized in my mind.
One way to keep the country alive in the city is in the kitchen. Soon after I arrived in South Africa, I discovered peppadews – sweet and spicy pickled red peppers, grown in the north of the country, in Limpopo. I then came across a recipe from the Kruger National Park in Bon Appetite’s magazine for Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffins. They remind me of the farm and are a pleasure to eat for breakfast with eggs or lunch with a fresh salad.
I have always loved reading books: novels specifically. It is impossible to say how many books I have read in my life. As a little girl, my parents would read to me from bright, shiny storybooks, and the smell and feel of the paper while laying safely tucked under the big floral bedspread, lasts forever in my memory. At some stage, I developed the odd and compulsive habit of reading the last sentence of every book before I make it past the first chapter. But by the time I reach the end of the book, the words that make up that last sentence are always as new to me as they were the first time. It always amazes me that this silly ritual never amounts to spoiling the book, and so I keep it up, like an ongoing experiment.
Freedom was a fantastic story. It leaves you with the notion that although the world is a messed up place often propelled into further disarray by the selfish desire for freedom – e.g. from war or the death grips of relationships and house cats (if you’re a bird) – the idyll waiting for each of us begins with the ability to look outside oneself. But not too far: start with looking to and caring for those who are closest to you, who love you, and whom you love.