Four Drunk Beauties
ISBN 9781415201046, published May 2010, Random House/Umuzi
** Winner of the 2011 Nielsen Bookseller’s Choice Award**
Left to rot in an Iranian prison and under the shadow of death, Kamaal tells fellow-insurgent Drew the story of the four drunk beauties – Elvira the housekeeper and ex-assassin, Lou the Senegalese sculptor, virtuoso cellist Mimi, and Adriette, a food fundi from the Free State. The two men follow the beauties’ wild chase through Iran in pursuit of a killer, a quest undertaken to prevent a catastrophe. And all the while the ancient and modern flavours of a country – its poetry, architecture and music – come to life in the rich and sensual tapestry of Alex Smith’s story-telling.
Reviewed on Litnet by Annel Pieterse
“….a very gripping read and couldn’t put it down until I had done with it. The wonderful, evocative descriptions, the larger than life characters, the ridiculously outrageous adventures, all the while contrasted with the muted, quiet desperation of Kamaal and Drew’s predicament, make for a real page-turner. A definite must-read.”
Reviewed in the Cape Times by Aly Verbaan
“… Let me say upfront that the title to Alex Smith’s latest offering, Four Drunk Beauties, doesn’t do this sublime and sagacious work of art any justice. It unfortunately conjures up chick lit, which is a very far cry from the truth.
Having said that (and that is my only bleat with Four Drunk Beauties), Smith, I believe, has outdone herself in a genre not many South Africans have tried.
By this I mean a combination of social and magical realism: Marquez and Rushdie come to mind and, closer to home, Ben Okri and Zakes Mda.
The story is multilayered and well reflected through the eyes of many characters, principle among them two prisoners who have been bound back to back and tossed naked into a warren of an Iranian cell, as well as, of course, the voices of the eponymous drunk beauties.
What is fascinating is that there appears to be a rather subtle (or not so subtle, if you know your mythology) mythological and possibly even a spiritual undercurrent infusing virtually every page.
The most apparent of these is a work called The Conference of the Birds, a Persian book of poetry written in 1177 – a journey by a flock of birds as an allegory of the master leading his pupils to enlightenment…”
Reviewed in The Citizen by Natalie Bosman
“Alex Smith has done it again – she’s delivered another epic adventure novel, so intricately and beautifully crafted that one feels quite spoiled to read any other book thereafter”
Reviewed in the Herald by Lloyd Oldham
FOUR DRUNK BEAUTIES by Alex Smith (Umuzi, R180).
THE title of this book may conjure up images of a girls’ night out gone wrong.
But Four Drunk Beauties is a mature, well-written adventure that teaches a few valuable lessons along the way.
It begins with insurgents Drew and Kamaal, who are left to die in an Iranian prison.
They are hungry and defeated, but their spirits are lifted as Kamaal starts telling the story of four drunk beauties.
He describes how the women; an ex-assassin, a sculptor, a virtuoso cellist and a food fundi, travel through Iran in pursuit of a killer.
Their journey is a treat for the senses (especially taste as the women enjoy exotic dishes wherever they travel).
After each chapter of Kamaal’s story the reader is taken back to the prison cell, where the insurgents continue their battle for survival.
One of the most powerful messages I got from the book was how one can recognise the positive in everything, even impending death.
This is evident throughout but can be summarised by this quote from Kamaal to Drew: “Everything is only half serious. The God of tears is also the God of laughter … It is my most certain conviction that people have the best laughs of their lives in the worst situations they ever face.”
Smith’s writing is colourful and compelling and she skillfully manages to simultaneously tell the stories of the four beauties and that of the two prisoners who become the best of friends. – Reviewed by Lloyd Oldham