Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis is a successful Cape Town essayist, columnist and commentator. She writes for the Daily Maverick, appears on panels at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and has a regular Thursday afternoon gig with John Maytham on CapeTalk, when she talks interestingly and wittily about current events.

She’s blonde and attractive, and happily married to the journalist Haji Mohamed Dawjee who, it happens, also has a book out.

But Davis, like all of us, has her worries in life, which prompted her to spend a year seeking personal wellness, spiritual enlightenment “and good old-fashioned happiness”.

One of her reasons for this course of action, she tells us in her first chapter, is giving up alcohol. She worried, as do we all, about things like falling giraffe populations, the drought in the Western Cape, and the diminishing amounts of sand available for mining - we apparently need it to make everything from houses to cellphone screens.

Alcohol helped her cope with these concerns, until her own consumption became an even bigger concern. Eventually, she gave up drinking when she met Dawjee and realised: “Drinking was threatening to scupper something too precious to be squandered. For the first time in my life, I’d found something that mattered more to me than alcohol.”

The problem then was this: here she was, stuck in a world that was driving her crazy, without even alcohol to muffle the pain. She lived in a city that was “the undisputed stronghold of ‘alternative’ paths to peace and enlightenment in South Africa”. Cape Town has practitioners in all sorts of alternative therapies, some quite startling, and so Davis launched a quest to see if she could find new ways of thinking or living. And if she didn’t, well, it would be a good story.

And it is. She starts the year with magic mushrooms at a venue a couple of hours outside Cape Town. The experience is wonderful, astonishing, mind-blowing. So delighted is she that she persuades a reluctant Dawjee to take another trip at home, in their eighth-floor flat. It turns out to be a very bad experience, one that almost sees Dawjee hurl herself over the balcony. So much for magic mushrooms.

Next she tries fasting, adhering to the rules of Ramadaan. This will, she says, test the spiritual dimensions of fasting, and impress her Muslim in-laws. But she concludes at the end of the month she has failed to grasp how Ramadaan is less about deprivation and more about connection and fellowship.

Then she pretty well gives up social media, and describes the feelings of loss at going cold turkey. She wonders if anyone has noticed; she wonders what she’s missing; she has to make up her own mind about things (which Davis is clearly extremely able to do); she has a lot more time; she does, eventually, find peace.

Much of this book is funny, and some of it is astonishing: Who knew all this stuff was going on in Cape Town?

* See this and other reviews on Vivien Horler’s website, The Books Page (thebookspage.co.za).