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Evening Primrose: Review

 Friday, 6th October, 2017
“Evening Primrose” 

Staff member, Maria Mendes, reviews last month's Book Club pick “Evening Primrose”

“Evening Primrose” by Kopano Matlwa is, first and foremost, someone’s personal journal. The writing suggests that the main character, Masechaba, never meant for it to become public. It’s an invitation into someone’s mind, no filters, no sugar-coating for the sake of the reader’s feelings. The rawness of it is both endearing and infuriating. Tender at times but not at all gentle, it’s a piece populated by unmeasured words, sharp as the tongue of someone who has travelled the spectrum of tragedy.

“I hate mornings because that’s where all the sadness waits.”

There is no doubt that “Evening Primrose” is relevant, for all the right and all the wrong reasons, in equal degree. If there was a map of trigger density, we would be looking at a deliciously dark burgundy tone. The book is set at a peak though; a step further, no matter in which direction, would have proven fatal, one too many, too far.

“Being alive is the most dangerous thing in the world. Anything can happen at any time. It’s safer to be dead.”

A political novel at its core, “Evening Primrose” explores xenophobia, sexuality, gender identity, femininity, suicide, rape, religion and the meanders of the health care system. Even though these issues are addressed in a particular context, post-apartheid South Africa, it’s almost impossible not to extrapolate to a present that was once the future and that now worryingly starts to resemble the past.

“But this ball is too heavy to carry. It hurts my arms, and with it in my hands I cannot do anything else.”

Written in a prose that clearly yearns to be poetry, this book is a reminder that even feathers aren’t weightless. These slim 160 pages, evenly punctuated by blank spaces across the paragraphs that call for deep breaths, throw a generous punch that resonates.

It’s difficult, if not hopeless, to remain indifferent to this piece, what I would say is one of Kopano Matlwa’s greatest achievements. These are matters that should be discussed in the public sphere, openly, as opposed to becoming burnt journals, ashes swept under the carpet.

“Sleep works better than all the anxiolytics Dr. Phakama prescribed, because when I wake up I’ve forgotten and for minutes, sometimes even up to an hour, I exist lightly, like a being without a care in the world.”

“Evening Primrose” is a paper puzzle floating in a vast ocean, once you try to grasp it as a whole it seems to dissolve into grains of sand that escape between your fingers. The feeling of having held it, even if fleetingly, does remain.

“People who have no respect for life have no right telling others how to live theirs.”

Brutally honest, incredibly human in its selfishness, a portrait of a desire that has been instilled in our DNA, the urge to matter, the need to be better, to create meaning.

If you enjoyed “milk and honey” by Rupi Kaur and “salt” by Nayyirah Waheed, I believe you will find in “Evening Primrose” the beginning of something.

The Book Club is held once a month, book in through the member's section and pick your copy of the book up from 2nd Floor.