The Peculiars

Long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature, 2016

Long-listed for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, 2017

Phobias abound at the Centre for Improved Living, where Nazma goes for help. She’s crazy about baking and desperately wants to become a pastry chef, but her fear of driving keeps her stuck working in a train-station kiosk, where she sells stale food to commuters while dreaming of butter croissants and fresh strudel.

The Centre is also a lifeline for Sam, who is scared to death of being robbed and spends his days in his pyjamas in front of his computer, his house alarm always armed.

Like the rest of the patients, Nazma and Sam want to face their fears, but will four weeks at the Centre be enough to change their lives? And will the two allow their budding romance to bloom without letting their phobias get in the way? Meanwhile, the Centre risks losing its funding, a fear that Ruby, the Centre’s eccentric director, must face while she tries to manage the patients’ fears. 

Set in a Cape Town as peculiar as its characters, The Peculiars is Jen Thorpe’s heart-warming and humorous debut.


Cape Times, 18 March 2016: “This is a fabulous book about people facing the things that scare them, and the knock-on effects that their healing has on those around them. But more than that Thorpe has managed to create a world for her characters that is so real an in touch with the landscape the story plays out in that you feel that you are with the characters…The Peculiars satisfies on so many levels; it works as a love story, as an entertaining story about phobias…it is a fantastic read that will have you thinking… Thorpe is a voice to watch, and I look forward to her next book.”

Bookish: “It’s an engrossing, warm read that is perfect for a night in when you just want a book that just feels like home. Jen has created loveable, recognisable characters and a vivid picture of a side of Cape Town we don’t often see.”

The Times: “It’s an easy and enjoyable read with gentle humour and good rendering of Cape Town.”

And the Plot Thickens: Jen Thorpe’s light hearted debut novel not only makes astute observations about people and human nature in general, its quirky take on Cape Town and the city’s idiosyncrasies are as amusing as her characters. This story is not just about the protagonists facing their own fears, but also asks readers to confront their own inhibitions… The Peculiars is like a bowl of soup – warm, familiar, and comforting. With the winter months upon us, it’s the perfect read to curl up with on a chilly day with a cuppa and a blanket.

African Women’s Development Fund: “The telling of heavy things in a light hearted way, is an art onto itself, and it’s an art that Jennifer Thorpe  has managed brilliantly.”

Fairlady: “this is a fun read that will also prompt some introspection.”

Guess What Girls: “Jen Thorpe also paints a really good picture of Cape Town so while you get to know the characters you also get to know a bit about the beautiful city and its culture.”

Writers Write: “Charming and lovely, this is a feel good story that deals with a serious subject matter.”

A Book Review Blog: “written with flourish and makes for excellent escapism.” “Thorpe uses this premise for her quirky, enjoyable fiction debut. Every page reveals a tangible love of Cape Town’s eccentricities, the streets, pavements and trains and the people who live on and around them. She quickly makes you care about this little temporary community, and the future of the centre that in its small way can make their world a better place.”

Wawa book review: “A society’s progress should not be measured constantly against the indices of economics alone but also by how it treats its afflicted and disadvantaged. Jen Thorpe has published a diary of the mentally afflicted, and it is important that those interested in preserving of what is left of Africa’s humanity take note.”

Beeld: “Thorpe skryf met ’n ligte hand. Haar karakters is eksentriek, maar geloofwaardig en oorwegend simpatiek. Sy beïndruk met ’n lieflike ­debuut.”

Mr Pink Ink: Everyday lives and everyday problems find a unique voice in this quirky yet clever read; add a little romance and a little drama and you have one awesome read – Jen Thorpe is truly an author to keep any eye on!



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