The Innocence of Roast Chicken is a post-apartheid novel with a strong sense of place and an atmosphere of light and beauty shot through with an acute awareness of impending tragedy.

This novel concerns an Afrikaans / English family in the Eastern Cape and their idyllic life on their grandparents’ farm, seen through the eyes of the little girl, and the subtle web of relationships which is shattered by a horrifying incident in the mid-sixties.

Scenes from the child’s early life are juxtaposed with Johannesburg in 1989 when the exiles are returning and our narrator, now married to a human rights lawyer, stands aside from the general euphoria which is gripping the nation. This intelligent woman’s despair, both with her marriage and with the national situation, resolutely returns to a brutal incident one Christmas day when the girl is thrust into an awareness of what lay beneath her blissful childhood.

Beautifully constructed, The Innocence of Roast Chicken is freighted with pain and longing.

Review quotes

This novel tells an intensely personal story and offers in the process a perspective on the changing South Africa which reveals again the dramas of apartheid. Jo-Anne Richards’ writing seems effortlessly expressive and flows with an unerring feel for authentic detail – to give us a fresh look at a familiar story – Wendy Woods.

Kate is a white South African with an attitude. While her human rights lawyer husband Joe is starry-eyed about the unfolding of the new South Africa, she relentlessly mocks it. In uncovering the mystery of why Kate is as she is, the story shifts between two worlds: the rural idyll of her grandparents’ chicken farm in 1966 and Johannesburg in 1089 . . . this book has pace and tension – shot through with the terrible beauty of the South African landscape and the efforts of a child to stave off a gathering evil. – Gillian Slovo, Mail on Sunday

Jo-Anne Richards displays a wonderful feeling for place and period . . . her prose is sharply evocative, and she conjures up the child’s powerful feelings with a vividness intensified by nostalgia. – Margaret Walters, The Sunday Times (UK)

A rapturous and tactile evocation of dust, food, noises and a childhood domain, rendered with a marked empathy for the child and the magical properties of a child’s stamping ground. Elizabeth Buchan, The Times (UK)

Neither martyrs nor heroes, Richards’s ordinary folk are loyal and optimistic – and naïve and self-important. Not many writers would have been in a position to criticize the great liberal cause before 1989-90.With luck The Innocence of Roast Chicken will help pave the way for a new genre of simple and honest South African story-telling. – Guardian. (UK)

A fresh and memorable addition to the literature of apartheid. – Observer. (UK)

The Innocence of Roast Chicken explores the psyche of a damaged nation. Richards’s confessional tone mirrors the current political climate in South Africa, where a nation is having to examine its past, in order that it may look forward to the future. More importantly though, Richards first novel is a personal narrative, which absorbs the reader into her drama, and the tragedies which unfold. – Anna Worthington, Literary Review.(UK)

Is niet alleen een belangwokkende roman omdat hij zo goed geschreven is. – Het Parool, Amsterdam.

Richards has a marvellous eye for tiny, telling details. The writing here is often lyrical, quite beautiful in its evocation of simple things keenly felt. There are passages reminiscent of the best of the early Lessing and they give Richards’ prose and edgy, disturbing quality that reaches pitches of remarkable brilliance. It shines. She has the knack of finding exactly the right word. – The Star

It is a painful excursion into the frankly scandalous as Richards tries to relate history’s ineptitude to the way that we see things now. – Business Day.

Jo-Anne Richards has the writer’s eye, that natural ability to sniff out the telling detail and the right word. She is a delight to savour – one of the freshest voices to emerge from South African literature in years – Peter Godwin, author of Mukiwa