The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam – Lauren Liebenberg

 Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers 2008.

I picked up this book purely based on the great title, and only later noticed that it had been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers 2008.

The book is set on a remote farm in Rhodesia, and is narrated by Nyree, an eight-year-old girl. Nyree and her younger sister, Cia, are left to roam inside the farm’s large fences, and together they discover the sights and sounds of Africa. The girls know little about the world on the other side of the fence until their orphaned cousin, Ronin, arrives and their world is changed forever.

The book is simply written and is very short, so I read it in one evening. It flows along quickly, but the lack of depth, or perhaps the fact that my own childhood was so different to theirs, meant I didn’t fully engage with the story. The book is clearly well researched, but I felt like I was being fed one African cliche after another, which is a shame as the author clearly knew Rhodesia well.

The ending was so sad, but seemed pointless. I don’t know why the book needed such a tragic ending and felt as though I was being depressed just for the sake of it.

Great title, but I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.


This has to be one of my favourite book titles.

Have you spotted a really good title?

Did it persuade you to read the book?

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  1. Simon S says:

    Brilliant, brilliant title. I think I might ask for this at the library as it sounds a bit saddening (to possibly say the least) and yet if its that short it could be quite an experience. I think I need to research the Orange New Writers long list more.

    1. Jackie says:

      I have discovered a few great things from the Orange New Writers list, so it is worth investigating.

      This book is very short, so if you need depressing quickly it is a good choice!! I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

  2. Claire says:

    I read this when it was published but was left disappointed. A fabulous title though! Another one that didn’t have as much depth as I was anticipating and that didn’t live up to my expectations was The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Behaviour of Moths is a great title too, but I enjoyed that book a lot. I never realised moths could be that interesting!

      1. Claire says:

        Too much lepidopterology for me! I liked it but I was left feeling disturbed AND a little flat. Oh, by the way, if you happen to go into Waterstone’s on Princes Street whilst in Edinburgh, they have an amazing Scottish Literature section you should check out!

        1. Jackie says:

          I’ll go and have a look in Waterstones – thanks for letting me know about it!

  3. Steph says:

    What a great title! But one that doesn’t really seem like it should leave you feeling sad and depressed. I could see it having to do with growing up , but I don’t know if I’m in the mood for sad books at the moment. Too bad this one wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, but sometimes it’s really fun to just pick up a book based on the title or the cover, without knowing what it’s about and just jump right in! It can be a great adventure.

    1. Jackie says:

      Perhaps it was just that it clashed with my expectations. I wasn’t expecting a sad book when I picked it up. I do love to pick up a book at random some times. It is great to dive into something based on the cover alone sometimes – just a shame it didn’t work this time.

  4. Sandy says:

    I really don’t like it when I feel the author is either trying to manipulate my emotions or forcing an issue. Now, maybe my sense of being manipulated occurs only when I am in bad moods, but either way, the experience leaves me flat and a little irritated. I’m thinking this would be my take-away on this one, so I shall leave it be! This title would have grabbed me had I stumbled upon it. I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society title. That one gets an award in my book!

    1. Jackie says:

      Perhaps you are better off avoiding Little Bee then – that book clearly manipulates your emotions, but I loved it for doing so. I’d love to know what you thought of it, so still urge you to add it to the TBR pile.

      1. Sandy says:

        Oh, I am all over Little Bee, manipulations or not. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from it!

        1. Jackie says:

          Great! I hope the manipulations don’t annoy you too much!

  5. I love peanut butter and jam – it’s this little hidden American in me! I would’ve bought this book based on the title alone.

    Umm – I might skip this one, regardless of the title though, so reckon my TBR won’t grow as a result of this review. That’s probably a good thing, as it might come crashing down any second now. Thanks for that! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m not a fan of jam so haven’t tried mixing it with peanut butter, but this books does sound like a light, fun read about childhood. I’m pleased I can be of benefit to your TBR pile!

  6. Beth F says:

    I’m passing through quickly today to say I have an award for you:

    Will be reading blogs a little later today.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thank you very much! Sorry I didn’t spot it before my link list was posted automatically – I’ll blog about it next week.

  7. Verity says:

    How disappointing. I picked it up in The works for 99p in hardback – I haven’t yet got around to looking at it…

    1. Jackie says:

      It is very quick, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it. You might like it more than I did.

  8. Joanna says:

    My bf got this as a gift so it’s sitting on our shelf and I’ve been wondering about it… I love the title too, sorry to hear that the book is disappointing! I choose books based on their titles sometimes too… :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      It is a very quick read, so I’ll be interested to see if you feel the same way about it as me.

  9. Jeanne says:

    I’m often disappointed when I choose a book by the title. In college I remember picking up Roth’s The Great American Novel and being disproportionately disappointed that it wasn’t all that “great.” I did it again with Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And my daughter said that the book with the greatest title of all YA books ever, One of those hideous books where the mother dies, isn’t all that good. So I try not to pick books by the title!

    I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch today. The American classic includes grape jelly, but I had strawberry.

    1. Jackie says:

      Chosing a book by the title/cover isn’t something I do very often and I think I’ll be less likely to do it now – I’ll stick to my trusted blogging friends for recommendations!

  10. melanie says:

    I would definitely have picked this one up based on the title alone. Too bad the story was a disappointment, but the author totally gets points for using voluptuous and pb&j together. I’m a pb & banana girl myself :)

    1. Jackie says:

      I love peanut butter and banana too!

      It does show that authors should chose their titles well. I’m sure this book generated a lot of extra sales because of the title.

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