Review SPUD

Once I accompanied a young boy to his boardingschool in South Africa. A new term had started and he was looking forward to his days at school. There was a distant recollection of the days when I was a Housemaster.

When I asked him what kind of books he did read at school, he replied that he hardly read (this was long before the days of the discussion on the white colonial literary system). He made one exception: SPUD. I jotted down some details in a small notebook I carried with me.

Years later I came across a secondhand copy of SPUD and I decided to buy it, remembering the boy at boardingschool. I put STUD on the shelf and carried on reading other books. More recent I discovered an other SPUD-ian book, also secondhand and I decided to buy it. It turned out to be the second installment of the SPUD, in which the madness continues …

Spud is the nickname of the boy John Milton from Durban (South Africa). At the tender age of thirteen he enters life at an elite boardingschool. He and we have arrived in the year 1990. He keeps a diary in which he notes down the adventures and the dull moments at school and especially he writes about the ‘Crazy Eight’, the boys at his dormitory. His meetings with his teacher ‘Guv’, with whom he talks about books. His mother is Jean (not much to say about her, except that she wants to leave South Africa) and his father is burdened by the political developments in the country, he tries to turn his house into a fort to keep out the commies. Spud has a difficult relationship with his parents. The mother of Jean is called Wombat, who has difficulties in keeping her mind and life in a proper order. I think she is the best part of the book. 

Spud writes down all the adventures with the Crazy Eight, little about the education he gets (!), about the humiliations meted out by his seniors at school, about the headboy of his House Luthuli (yes, grandson of ..), about the meetings to discuss political affairs, about his good friend Gecko, who dies of cerebral malaria, about cricket and rugby. He falls in love with more than one girl, one of them being ‘Mermaid’, a daughter of a friend of his mother. 

The books has been made into a movie (2010), with Troye Sivan as Spud and John Cleese as the ‘Guv’. 

At times the book is funny (not ‘wickedly funny’ in my opinion), at others times I wished SPUD had more Speed. 

John van de Ruit – SPUD – 2005



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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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