Confessions of a Gambler, written by award-winning novelist Rayda Jacobs, is an extremely realistic novel set in Cape Town. Surrounding the events of the lead character Abeeda “Beeda” Ariefdien, Confessions of a Gambler touches on the complex yet very alive issues affecting South Africans: gambling, homosexuality, AIDS, and infidelity.
Abandoned and pregnant with her fourth son, Beeda has since struggled for years trying to bring up her sons in as normal a life as possible. While her life may look as ordinary as any other, her inner most secrets are divulged as the story unfolds in a flashback technique, offering the reader a fuller and more complete understanding of her situation. From accepting that her one and only true love can never be hers, to handling the stigma attached to a Muslim mother of a gay son with AIDS, Beeda finds an unexpected comfort in slot machines. Harboring her gambling addiction day-in and day-out, she carelessly pushes aside her most pressing issues, eventually finding herself in a tight situation… and her son on the brink of death.
I read this novel shortly after returning from my first trip to Cape Town, in late 2010. Most of the activities in the novel occurred in Ronderbosch, the place where I stayed during my holiday. I felt an immediate connection to the novel, that later grew as I got to know more about Beeda. Her ordinary yet amazing character is such that anybody of any background can relate to, while sharing and understanding her happiness, pain and disappointment. It is not often that local novels follow so closely the lives of the Cape Malay Muslims, exposing while enlightening us about the activities, traditions and lifestyles contrasting with the majority of Indian Muslims in South Africa. Confessions of a Gambler is both an emotional and educational tale, whose intricacies remain etched in your memory long after you’re done reading.
Quick facts about Confessions of a Gambler:
- It is Jacobs’ 4th novel.
- It has won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2004.
- Confessions of a Gambler has been made into a movie based on the novel, with Rayda Jacobs starring as the lead, Abeeda Ariefdien.
This is one of those rare novels I advise people to get their own copy instead of borrowing one. Buy yourself a copy asap! 🙂