The Innocence of Roast Chicken focuses on an Afrikaans/English family in the Eastern Cape and their idyllic life on their grandparents’ farm, seen through the eyes of the little girl, Kate, and the subtle web of relationships that is shattered by a horrifying incident in the mid-1960s.

Scenes from Kate’s early life are juxtaposed with Johannesburg in 1989 when Kate, now married to Joe, a human rights lawyer, stands aside from the general euphoria that is gripping the nation. Her despair, both with her marriage and with the national situation, resolutely returns to a brutal incident one Christmas day when Kate was thrust into an awareness of what lay beneath her blissful childhood.

Beautifully constructed, The Innocence of Roast Chicken is painful, evocative, beautifully drawn and utterly absorbing.

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 Takealot.com, who are offering a launch discount. If you prefer to read digitally, you can get it on Amazon or Kobo.

Review Quotes

  • 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.

    Ronnie Kasrils May 2019
  • 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.

    Finuala Dowling May 2019
  • 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 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.
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