Book Review – Wine, Women and Good Hope

A History of Scandalous Behaviour at the Cape by June McKinnon (Zebra Press) ISBN 9781770229860

In this beautifully-researched book historical figures come alive. Their family names belong to our parents and grandparents. The race for diamonds forced people to live in Kimberley. The Witwatersrand crawled with gold prospectors. The de Villiers and Cloetes opted for the wine farms in the Cape. The French Huguenots settled in South Africa bringing their religious beliefs with them.

Every family scandal sheds light on all our ancestors in a humorous and truthful way. The Dutch East India Company established a refreshment station at the foot of Africa. It gained a dubious reputation for offering more than fresh food. Men who had been starved of female company while at sea, headed straight for the fleshpots of the Cape. Alcohol was an excellent bedfellow with sex.

South Africans are warned not to search in the gilded corridors of Blenheim or the mirrored halls of Versailles for their family trees, but rather take a look at family trees in Europe’s dingy backwaters. I enjoyed every salacious and innocent page of this book and see resemblances to the past in every person whose name I know.

Dee Andrew

Posted on: 31st January 2016