an honest tale

Dancing to a Different Rhythm by Zarina Maharaj is one of the most honest books I have ever read.

Dancing to a Different Rhythm by Zarina Maharaj is one of the most honest books I have ever read.

Very rarely does one come across a memoir so unapologetic. I often get the feeling with biographies that the sole aim is to paint the subject in the most positive light and little inference is made about the weaknesses of the personality.

This is why I loved Maharaj's book about her life before and with former transport minister Mac Maharaj. It is an honest tale of a life hard fought for and well lived.

The book tells the story of Jo (Zarina's mother) who was unwilling to see her children grow up without options and possibilities of a better life. After a failed marriage she sells off everything and moves with her five children to England.

Very early on in life Maharaj shows many of the qualities of her mother - an unfailing resilience, ambition and determination, traits so rare in today's world.

The book beautifully captures the soul and truth of each character and the most fitting tribute to one's mother, siblings, children and husband.

What makes this an even more compelling tale is that it is a quiet, and I suspect, unintentional tribute to the author herself.

There is something very poignant about this book. It is in its own right, without trying to be, an indispensable handbook on life, love and integrity.

It also tells the story of the South African struggle in such a personal way it's breathtaking.

As a newly-wed what moved me the most was Maharaj's commitment to her husband and two children. She was the sole breadwinner until 1994, when Mac became minister of transport.

All of us so-called modern women can learn a lot from a woman who was always modern and one of the finest mathematicians of our time.

The most heartbreaking part for me was how selflessly and painfully Maharaj essentially compromised her hunger to fill an official ANC post so as not to be seen to be piggy-backing on Mac's freedom fighter status. She would have made a fine minister I believe.

I was left in awe, and for me it's right up there with some of the greatest books I've read that spoke directly to my soul.