Was that lonely woman really me?


Was that lonely woman really me?

As an attentive reader, DEBORAH STEINMAIR navigates a sea of feelings.


WOULD stories, especially crime stories, be possible without emotions? People kill because they feel too much or because they can't feel anything at all.

Some people don't experience emotions, I learnt from a crime novel. Or rather, they don't recognise emotions in themselves or others. If you don't know something, you probably can't recognise it either. This condition has a name: alexithymia. Just imagine, you never have to be sad, angry, ashamed or afraid again. Unfortunately, you also won't be excited, joyful, in love or grateful.

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We're not always aware of our emotions and expressions, like the woman who saw herself in the window of an empty tavern in the old song and thought, “Was that lonely woman really me?"

There are allegedly people who mimic emotions, like Eleanor Rigby in the Beatles' song, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

I have recently read three books motivated by emotion.

The first was about a girl, Katrina, who has always felt too much: she is overwhelmed by other people's auras; she experiences their dominant emotion as a colour. She can tell if someone is inherently good or bad, and she is never wrong. She is a human lie detector who can sniff out moral bankruptcy. Her childhood in a caravan park was problematic.

In between, we read about the brilliant, ambitious Scottish scientist, Dr Hugh Martin, who is on the verge of patenting his invention: electrodes are attached to someone's head and chest, then you get a printout of their personality — the character scan of the title. You can tell if someone is genetically inclined towards criminality.

Katrina becomes an investigative journalist. She sniffs out corruption everywhere and exposes it on a large scale.

Meanwhile, there is a world leader on the rise. He is exceptionally charismatic, of course, and ice-cold. He gets his kicks from murdering women. It seems he can outsmart Martin's algorithm, but then he lands on Katrina's radar. And she on his.

It's a runaway train of a book that you'll find hard to put down. It's closer to science than fiction, according to Edward Chamberlain-Bell on the back cover.

Douglas Kruger is South African, an international motivational speaker and the author of successful business books. Someone to be proud of.

This book is about someone who doesn't really experience emotions. Pursuing zen isn't always the answer, you see, even though those of us who are tossed around on the sea of our emotions long for a calm ocean.

Ann's dad is a famous philosopher who is arrested out of the blue. He allegedly abducted and killed a series of little girls over the years.

Ann's world crumbles. Walter was a wonderful dad, steady, never angry, endlessly patient. Her mom died when she was little, and he raised her with great care. From a young age, he asked her to write down her emotions and express what it feels like to be angry, to be sorry, to be ashamed.

Walter Lesniak denies everything and refuses to talk. Ann is convinced of his innocence and determined to clear his name. She follows one lead after another, fruitlessly. Is it possible that her caring father, now known in the press as Doctor Death, tortured and killed a dozen little girls?

The story takes place in Berlin. Romy Hausmann is the author of international bestsellers such as Sleepless and Dear Child. It was translated into English by Jamie Bulloch.

You won't be getting much sleep.

The third book is also about an emotion: shame. Ola and her fiancé, Michael, are like black royalty in London. They are extremely cool: both taller than six feet and as beautiful as models. They are social media darlings. She is a journalist for an online feminist magazine, Womxxxn, and after gaining fame on TikTok and YouTube, he also launches his dream job. But on the day he starts at his new, cool company, a list is released on Twitter accusing a bunch of famous men of violence against women. His name is on the list.

There's less than a month until the wedding; a big, fat, African wedding that is outrageously expensive. The dress has been chosen, as well as the cake and the bridesmaids' fabric, and the venue is booked. It's a high-profile affair because they are both media darlings. Now, Michael is immediately forced to take leave and sort out his life. Ola's magazine wants her to write about the list. She hires a private investigator. He hires a lawyer.

It turns out Michael has always been a bit unstable. In the past, he was a ruthless skirt-chaser who didn't readily accept “no" for an answer. Yet, he feels that he was never violent. However, he does experience shame, to the extent that he turns to alcohol. There is something in his (recent) past that he keeps from his fiancée. And there lies the knot.

Ola doesn't postpone the wedding, but she asks him to prove to her before the wedding day that the accusation is untrue. She also experiences shame and humiliation and remains, despite everything, in love with him. Can their relationship survive this storm?

The novel is relevant and shows how stars are born and burn out on social media, how lives are anonymously destroyed. It raises a lot of questions, and I'm not sure if all of them are satisfactorily answered. Nevertheless, it's an interesting reading experience that evokes a lot of emotion.

Who, what, where and how much?

Character Scan by Douglas Kruger was published by Penguin Random House and costs R300 at Exclusive Books.

Anatomy of a Killer by Romy Hausmann was published by Quercus and costs R396 at Exclusive Books.

The List by Yomi Adegoke was published by Fourth Wall and costs R312 at Loot.

What are we listening to?

Sinéad O'Connor sings In This Heart. 

♦ VWB ♦

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