The book that just won’t lie down

 In Invitations, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Misc

In 1996 my first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken, appeared – and changed my life. Its success took me completely by surprise.

The book shot to number one in South Africa in the week it was released, and remained there for fifteen weeks. It appeared as the ‘Dark Horse’ on a London bestseller list, alongside Graham Swift’s Last Orders and Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

Now, some twenty years later, I’m immensely proud that Pan Macmillan has rereleased it, as part of their prestigious Picador Africa Heritage Classics Collection, where it has joined books by writers such as Ellen Kuzwayo, Frank Chikane, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Pallo Jordan and Johan Steyn.

Of its rerelease, Ronnie Kasrils had this to say:

‘It was the time of politics with a capital “P” when everything had to relate to the liberation struggle and the overthrow of apartheid in far too prescriptive a manner. Yet the very title of Jo-Anne Richards’s debut novel caught my imagination, so evocative of the Sunday roast chicken of my childhood days, that when I bumped into her at a government reception I spontaneously told her, “Your book is what this country is all about.”

‘This was when a young white woman was not supposed to be the literary flavour of the month. The self-styled literary commissars were outraged. The author was either ahead of her time or her critics were shackled by the ideas of political correctness, race and gender identification. The Innocence of Roast Chicken broke the paradigm. It helped to define the time, giving insight from where some of us had come, and it pointed the way to what we could become. That’s what great writing should accomplish.’

If you’re in Johannesburg or Cape Town, please join me to celebrate. The novel, packaged with new material, will be relaunched at Love Books, Melville on 30 October at 6 for 6.30pm.

I’ll be in discussion with Professor Lesley Cowling. I’d love to share a celebratory glass with you. Please RSVP

Or join me on 7 November at Exclusives Cavendish, also 6 for 6.30pm, where I’ll be in conversation with novelist and poet Finuala Dowling, who was generous enough to say:

‘On its debut, The Innocence of Roast Chicken was the perfect herald of South Africa’s transition. It remains an enduringly lyrical and evocative landmark novel, both coolly rational and achingly nostalgic in its depiction of the beloved country.’

Please RSVP

The Innocence of Roast Chicken is available in all good South African bookstores. If your local doesn’t have it, they’ll be happy to order it. Alternatively, have it delivered by, who are offering a launch discount. If you prefer to read digitally, you can get it on Amazon or Kobo.

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