Following on from my quest to read books from African authors I literally stumbled upon this book outside of SOAS university on a work trip! Initially I was slightly hesitant to buy this book as the seller was selling it for full price (Having a kindle and the ability to purchase books at discounted rates has made me spoiled) but I’m glad I did!
Set in post apartheid South Africa, The Woman Next Door tells the tale of two older women, one black, one white living within the Cape Town suburb. Not only are Hortensia James and Marion Agostino next door neighbours, both are in their eighties, have recently been widowed, are successful professional women and are also sworn enemies! On the surface these two women have a lot in common but for interesting reasons which Omotoso reveals throughout the novel, it is evident that they can’t stand each other. Then one day something happens which means both of these strong-willed women must draw closer together and find a way of moving forward.
Through her dynamic and fiery characters, Omotosho’s does not shy away from South Africa’s troubled past and the realities for all its inhabitants. South Africa in my opinion is portrayed in truth; as a country which has tried and is continuously trying to heal itself in the years following the collapse of apartheid. It was revealing to see in story form what we are all aware of; prejudices not only linger on but can also become exacerbated when things of “the past” are present today. The refreshing difference with The Woman Next Door is that this storyline is not portrayed as a victim/perpetrator relationship, instead Omotosho injects humour into the mix to encourage a sense of understanding of each character. Indeed The Woman Next Door is a novel about race relations but perhaps it is more so endearing an story which about generational differences, coming to terms with regrets and wasted opportunities and the difficulties of trying to remain independent and active when your body has other ideas
lol. It is a story of ageing and your enemy through circumstances unforeseen, could very well become your friend.
I can honestly say I had no preconceived ideas about this book but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this! I had many a laugh out loud moment with the The Woman Next Door and so for that reason I give this book an 8/10!