By Niki Smart
iMay Productions, $8.99, 285 pages
Niki Smart is a singer, author and yoga teacher from South Africa who has lived what could euphemistically be called a colorful life. In her memoir Hell Camp, Smart relays tales of her traumatic childhood, marked by her mother’s lack of boundaries, manipulations, abuse, and fear mongering regarding her children’s deaths, and her wild, promiscuous years as a young adult.
But, in a way, Hell Camp is also more than a memoir. It takes place largely in apartheid South Africa and gives intense and often brutal insight into the social and political climate of the time. The violence and upheaval in South African history is a great juxtaposition to Smart’s story, the craziness of the time and the craziness of her life working in conjunction to present a very vibrant, almost frightening, picture.
Hell Camp occasionally suffers from being too glib, too casual, and there are portions of the book that could use a good tweaking. But the story itself is really pretty remarkable, and you can’t help but feel that Smart is lucky she made it out as well as she did — or at all.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall