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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
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The Woman Next Door

by Yewande Omotoso

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
A good read set in the leafy suburb of Constantia in Cape Town. Funny at times. I got drawn in to the story and read it in a day. ( )
  akeela | May 10, 2018 |
This is a story of two 80 year old women, sworn enemies, who live next door to one another in one of Cape Town’s (South Africa) better neighborhoods. Marion is white, a former architect, mother of three grown children, recently widowed and president of the neighborhood association. She is extremely snobby. Hortensia is black, a former textile designer, childless, with a husband near death; she’s just mean. Omotoso has written an intelligent story that completely pulls you into the story of these two women; it’s hilarious at times and yet compassionate. And as we read, we wonder, can these two women ever become something resembling friends? I could not help but think the author was also saying something more expansive about South Africa but I fail to be able to give voice to it. A wonderful read, and once you start it will be hard to leave it for very long…. ( )
1 vote avaland | May 10, 2018 |
I think I heard about The Woman Next Door from the Johannesburg Review of Books but it was also longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2017. I liked it. No bells and whistles, but a jolly good story.
Hortensia and Marion are next-door neighbours in a posh suburb of Cape Town, and they hate each other. Marion will never forgive Hortensia for buying the house that was the very first one ever designed by Marion, a successful architect. Having designed it, Marion wanted to buy it as soon as it came back on the market but fate conspired against her and now Hortensia has it. Hortensia, a successful designer, is fed up with being patronised because she is the first black woman on the estate, and she despises the petty community committee that creates mountains out of molehills because the women have nothing else to do with their time. They are both in their eighties, they are both embittered old widows and they are both adept at being mean and nasty to everyone they come in contact with.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/05/02/the-woman-next-door-by-yewande-omotoso-bookreview/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 2, 2018 |
The main problem with structuring a novel around two cantankerous old neighbours who can't stand each other is that you have very little freedom in deciding where the story will go. If they aren't reconciled to each other by the end of the book the reader will feel cheated out of a proper story; if they are, then we tell ourselves that we knew that was going to happen all along, and wonder what we're paying the writer to do. Omotoso manages to steer around this problem to some extent, but in the end she gets sucked into the vortex of narrative inevitability just like everyone else who ventures into this particular plot.

Where this book stands out from most of the others that use this particular plot device is that Omotoso's objective is not so much to make us laugh (although she does do this occasionally) as to make us think about one of the nastier problems of growing old - the realisation that it's getting too late to fix the things in our life that we would prefer to have done differently - in our personal lives or in the wider world. Which doesn't necessarily make it any easier to forgive or to apologise. The two central characters, both in their eighties when we meet them, are successful career women and the children of parents belonging to oppressed minorities (Marion is the white South African daughter of Jewish refugees from Lithuania; Hortensia the black British daughter of Caribbean immigrants), and both are uncomfortable with compromises they have been forced to make between family and professional life; in addition, Marion is (at least subconsciously) aware that she has been passively complicit in the oppression that went with Apartheid, simply by being there and being white, whilst Hortensia's experience of living in South Africa makes it difficult for her to see white people as anything other than racists.

All of which sort-of works, but seems to be rather too heavy a load for the characters to carry. Especially since Omotoso's technique is to explain the development of Hortensia's and Marion's self-awareness mostly through flashbacks to their (separate) earlier lives, whilst their interactions with each other in the here-and-now are mostly rather brief and brusque. So you get the feeling that we are in two separate, occasionally overlapping novels: Hortensia and Marion are scarcely aware of each other's existence most of the time and are both looking for (or trying to postpone) some kind of resolution in their own lives, independently of each other, and it seems almost coincidental that they happen to be together when things click into place. The minor characters are also very much in the background most of the time - this is a very solipsistic book about two characters with big egos in which no-one else gets much of a look-in.

On the other hand, Omotoso adopts the perspective of an old person very convincingly - I didn't look her bio up until after finishing the book, and I was genuinely surprised to discover that she's still in her thirties.

Interesting, definitely, but more for the subject-matter than as a novel. ( )
  thorold | Feb 12, 2018 |
Two older women who are neighbors and frenemies in a wealthy Capetown suburb have to find a way to live together after an accident renders one reliant on crutches and the other without a home.

It's a tad underbaked and over plotted and good lord but it needed an editor, but in many ways entertaining. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Jan 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
In her U.S. debut, South Africa–based Barbadian writer Omotoso does a deft job of shading in the personal and professional back stories to this pair of life-hardened battle-axes, adding a deeper layer of historical resonance in the form of a surprise claim for restitution by descendants of slaves quartered at Katterijn....A pleasing tale of reconciliation laced with acid humor and a cheery avoidance of sentimentality.
 
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Epigraph
The wall is the thing which separates them, but it is also their means of communication. - Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
Dedication
For Emily Doreen Verona Atherley and Percy Leroy Rice , For Ajibabi Daramola Oladumoye and Gabriel Omotoso Falibuyun
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The habit of walking was something that Hortensia took up after Peter fell ill.
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amazon :Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility and pruning both with a vim and zeal that belies the fact that they are over eighty.



But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late to expect these two to change?
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"Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires. Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together. As the physical barriers between them collapse, their bickering gradually softens into conversation, which yields a discovery of shared experiences. But are these sparks of connection enough to ignite a friendship, or is too late to expect these women to change? The U.S. debut of an Etisalat Prize Finalist, The Woman Next Door is a winning story of the common ground we sometimes find in unexpected places, told with wit and wry humor"--… (more)

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