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Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa
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Evening Primrose (2016)

by Kopano Matlwa

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402443,030 (3.83)3
"Compelling and heart-wrenching, Evening Primrose explores issues of race, poverty, and gender in post-apartheid South Africa through the eyes of a junior doctor... When Masechaba finally achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, her ambition is tested as she faces the stark reality of South Africa's public health care system. As she leaves her deeply religious mother and makes friends with the politically-minded Nyasha, Masechaba's eyes are opened to the rising xenophobic tension that carries echoes of apartheid. Battling her inner demons, she must decide if she should take a stand to help her best friend, even if it comes at a high personal cost. A powerfully insightful novel from "South Africa's Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie" (The Bookseller), Evening Primrose explores issues of race, gender, and the medical profession with tenderness and urgency"--… (more)

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Evening Primrose, Kopano Matlwa’s third novel (originally published in South Africa under the title Period Pain), is written in the form of a journal kept by Masechaba, a young doctor working in a busy South African city hospital. A recent medical school graduate, Masechaba’s menstrual cycle causes her intense suffering; it is one of the factors that motivated her to seek a career in medicine: to someday find a cure for chronic pain that, in her opinion, the medical profession has not adequately addressed. Ultimately though, Matlwa’s book is an examination of the social, gender and racial tensions that persist in South African society almost thirty years after the end of apartheid. Masechaba’s closest friend at the hospital is Nyasha, a physician from Zimbabwe with strong political convictions and activist tendencies who opens Masechaba’s eyes to the hostility with which many South Africans regard foreigners arriving to their country seeking work and a refuge from poverty and political instability. When anti-immigrant sentiment reaches a crisis point and begins to boil over into violence, Nyasha inspires Masechaba to launch a petition, to rally public opinion in the other direction and battle the spread of xenophobia. The petition is successful and receives media attention, but also makes Masechaba a target, and one day at the hospital in the middle of a shift, she is assaulted. The remainder of Masechaba’s journal entries describe her slow and agonizing recovery and her struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the assault. There is no question that, on an emotional level, Matlwa’s novel is devastating and troubling. However, the journal format that so effectively lends the narrative voice its raw power is also the reason why the drama remains muted and somewhat hazy: since we are only told by Masechaba what has happened after the fact, everything seems to occur offstage, with the result that the reader's experience of important events and response to them is blunted. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Masechaba ready to exert her independence and looking toward a future that will be very different from her past. This is a mature and uncompromising novel and Kopano Matlwa is a talented and passionate writer whose voice is well worth heeding. Nevertheless, the reader is left with the sense that, given its complex and morally explosive subject matter, Evening Primrose should resonate in the memory longer than it does. ( )
  icolford | Aug 31, 2019 |
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When Masechaba finally achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, her ambition is tested as she faces the stark reality of South Africa's public healthcare system.

As she leaves her deeply religious mother and makes friends with the politically-minded Nyasha, Masechaba's eyes are opened to the rising xenophobic tension that carries echoes of apartheid.

Battling her inner demons, she must decide if she should take a stand to help her best friend, even it comes at a high personal cost.
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