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In the Wings book reviews

'In the Wings' feedback/review from the wonderful Jo McFarlane, poet, Edinburgh

Your story is remarkable. As a memoir your book will stick in my mind as among the finest I have read, and the most exceptional testament to the resilience of the human spirit. But your book is also a very powerful and erudite work of feminist analysis - all the more so because it is grounded in your lived experience of the very worst extremes of male abuse of power. I want to recommend your book to everyone as a 'must read'. It is poetic, gutsy, funny in places, and heartbreakingly beautiful. It is also an intriguing insight into the world of dance and pre/post-Apartheid South Africa. This is a book I will go back to again and again when I need to be inspired and uplifted.


Review from writer Ishbel McCormack

"In The Wings" is most definitely not an account from a victim but the inspiring story of a survivor. Much more than a misery memoir, Denise Stephani's narration of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father is interspersed with the caustic and pithy comments of her alter ego Jasmine Rose. This inner voice gives an insight to Denise's strength of character and how dance became her refuge. A compelling and emotional book- can't wait to read Part II.


Beautiful, spiritual and utterly horrifying... I had tears and laughter! 

I am so honoured to have read this beautiful, spiritual and utterly horrifying life story of Denise. What an evil man. I am starting understand how survivors like Denise are still recovering from what their care givers have done to them, and are still doing to them. (I will always have my support, love and respect, for those who speak out, even though they are still in fear for their lives). The people who know me, know that I am not a great reader. However, I finished this book in less to three days; I had tears, laughter - and utter bewilderment at what happened to Denise, and I am starting to see how many more victims of abuse there are and what they have to do to be a survivor. 

"In The Wings", is going to be a very important book not just for general reading, plus the arts and dance, but most importantly for other abuse victims to help them come forward and tell their story so that the world can change and become a safer place, where abusers can't hide in the silence. Denise is more than a survivor/heroine to abuse victims; she is special to all. 

I am so overwhelmed with her strength and spirit and cannot wait for the next book of `The Venus Rising Trilogy' , `Letters to Mandela' and all the rest of her books.

C. Burgess B.Sc. (Australia), 13 December 2012



This is a courageous story about childhood abuse. Despite the horrific nature of it, the author has done a brilliant job of injecting bucketloads of humour and theatre anecdotes to lighten the mood. She also presents thoughtful ponderings on deep questions of life. All this in a very easy to read, chatty style. What she endured seems far worse than any SAS training, both the attempted brainwashing and the physical torture - her ability to cope is phenomenal. And yet she feels she is one of the lucky ones that didn't get it quite so bad (page 134). Why can't we wake up to all this widespread human rights atrocity!

This book seems to have everything: sex, violence, unbelievable situations, evil, humour, more humour and above all a powerful practical message to save the world. She encourages us all to be shining knights and make a stand against entrenched the Culture of Abuse. For me the message seems to be that world culture needs very clearly to say NO to any type of abuse. A world where men treat women as equals. Men need to especially proclaim and embrace these messages, whilst women/girls/children need to very clearly know where they can go if they want to escape abusive situations. Stephani feels women need to stop complying with the Con of Man, suggesting a kind of Lysistrata Revolution until fairness is achieved: the Rise of the Feminine. Women need to speak out! Everything is interconnected: the destruction of the environment and the rape of Earth by capitalism is perpetuating this Culture of Abuse. I encourage and applaud her continued work and am grateful she was born. This book needs to be made into a movie!

Bruce Mitchell (Dip. in Professional Journalism, Dip. of Higher Education), 5 February 2013

A book that should take centre stage

This is undeniably an important and brave book, not to mention an interesting and thought-provoking read. Denise invites us into her harrowing childhood yet writes engagingly about her often horrendous experiences. She is to be congratulated on having the courage to put herself out there; on shining a light onto a dark subject that too many, I suspect, have similarly encountered; and for daring to raise her voice in a clarion call for action against domestic and sexual abuse. Any tool that can help break the bully's code of silence is potentially a powerful weapon. And Denise has written a powerful book. It is also a book of hope, of triumph over adversity. It deserves a wide readership.

Warren Paul Glover, 18 March 2013


Denise gives a frank description of the abuse she suffered for years at the hands of her psychopathic Father during the apartheid years in South Africa.

This is not an easy read but that it not a criticism. Such descriptions of abuse and it's devastating, lingering consequences need to be heard, particularly in the light of the recent news stories regarding Jimmy Savile and the Catholic Church. Denise's story comes at a critical time when people are hopefully realising how disturbingly common sexual abuse is.

What particularly resonated with me when reading this book was the feeling of isolation that Denise experiences. She gives the reader an insight into the torture of being silenced at the hands of someone who everyone else views as a hero. There were times when I didn't want to read on because it was so upsetting. Again, this is no criticism. Having been silenced to the point of being mute, I can imagine that reader's with similar experiences may take comfort from Denise's fighting spirit.

Denise shrewdly punctuates her story with funny anecdotes from her dance career. She is clearly well aware that a reader may switch off when reading about stark accounts of abuse: people find it very upsetting. This style of narrative highlights the ever present culture of burying our heads in the sand when abuse is discussed.

All in all, the book is an important, brave, prolific account of abuse and its effects. Denise has an unbreakable spirit. She comes across as hugely likeable and doesn't wallow in any self pity. She wants the world to open its eyes to its abuse culture and take positive action. I may sound naive, but perhaps when people are made aware of such suffering they will be moved into action. I certainly felt this way after finishing 'In The Wings'.

Emily Scott


In the Wings by a beautiful person 

I am busy finishing a read at the moment but I am so looking forward to reading this book. 

I know it is going to be brilliant. Denise Stephani, I knew her in South Africa, is a most beautiful person and as a ballet dancer her technique was as near perfect as one can get.
I can relate to how she escaped into the world of ballet to block out her sad home life..

Bugsey, 22 February 2013


Also see:-

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