Our book club decided on The Blessed Girl a few months ago, and after reading the excerpt, I was excited to read it. Bontle Tau is #blessed. She lives an opulent lifestyle without having to ‘work’ for it. Male suitors are lining up to pay for her Mercedes, her penthouse, and her Instagrammable holidays. But her glamourous lifestyle is not without its own set of challenges. Bontle must juggle her attention between her blessers; her soon-to-be ex-husband; her female friends; and her mother who runs a shebeen in Mamelodi and who is struggling to raise Bontle’s teenaged brother on her own. Sooner or later, Bontle must give something up.
The blesser and the blessee
If like me, you had no idea what a blesser or blessee is, author Angela Makholwa is kind enough to provide definitions at the beginning of the book.
“Blesser. A person (usually male and married) who sponsors a younger woman with luxury gifts or a luxurious lifestyle in exchange for a short- to medium-term relationship.”
“Blessee. A person (usually female) who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, sometimes married partner in return for sexual favours.
So, now if you see the words #blessed on a lavish Instagram post, it might mean that a blesser sponsored it. There were many words in the book that I was unfamiliar with, but Bontle explains everything, which is helpful, especially if you don’t understand Zulu.
The blessed life
I struggled to connect with Bontle at the start of the novel, and I didn’t like that she continually referred to the reader as ‘you’. It took me out of the story instead of allowing me to immerse myself into Bontle’s world.
But I soon started to feel for Bontle and liked that I was her confidant. Her winning charm and lack of any social anxiety won me over.
“The skill that I have honed and perfected, from a fairly young age, is that of charming people to get my own way,” Bontle says.
And she is definitely an expert in the field of charm considering that she has three blessers, Teddy, Mr Emmanuel, and Papa Jeff, all vying for her attention.
Fast-paced lifestyles (and speed reading)
In The Blessed Girl, Bontle finds time in her busy social schedule to read. She mentions Malcolm Gladwell and his 10 000-hour rule. “…if you spend 10 000 hours honing a skill, if you practise incessantly at it, you are more likely to be a champion in that field,” Bontle says to explain how she became such a charmer. Practice clearly makes perfect.
It becomes obvious later in the book, however, that Bontle does not really like reading; she just likes the thought of reading. She mentions Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal a couple of times but says: “Anyway, did you really think I’d already read the entire book? The pace of my life is inversely proportional to my reading speed”.
I love that! I constantly feel like the pace of my life is inversely proportional to my reading speed.
Not so blessed
Bontle’s life seems to pick up speed as the story progresses, and not everything is as glitzy and glamorous as it seems. It is not all VIP lounges, Louis Vuitton heels and fancy cars. Bontle makes a few bad decisions, and at times it felt like I was watching a horror movie where you are shouting at the actress not to walk into the dark woods alone, but you know she’s going to do it anyway.
Soon you realise that Bontle is lonely. She has all these blessers and attractive friends, but she still feels isolated. With the reader being her only real confidant, Bontle slowly sinks into a depression. So much so that she wonders whether she should give up the blessed life.
“Am I ready to wave goodbye to Teddy and his tenders, Mr Emmanuel and his News Cafes, and Papa Jeff and his cash allowances?”
Bontle turns to antidepressants and spends time in a mental health institution.
The beginning of the end
At the end of the novel, Bontle explains why she chose the blessed life. I don’t want to give too much away as I encourage you to read The Blessed Girl. It is a rollercoaster of emotion with more twists and turns than the sequins on a Chanel dress.
The Blessed Girl will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the glamourous #blessed posts you see on Instagram and make you think twice about judging a blessed girl.