Review: Evening Primrose – Kopano Matlwa

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Genre: Contemporary, fiction

Publication date: 27th July 2017 by Sceptre

Format: Hardcover copy sent to me for review from Sceptre via Bookbridgr

Told in the form of a one-sided conversation with God, Evening Primrose is the story of Masechaba, a young woman who achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, yet soon faces the stark reality of South Africa’s healthcare system.

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

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

(from goodreads.com)


This book may be only 160 pages, but it packs one hell of a punch. It is raw, emotional, honest, and utterly brilliant.

I have never read a book set in South Africa before, and I know (sadly) very little about the history of the country and its people. This book has prompted me to look up more detail, as there is so much happening that I had no idea about and feel as though I should learn about. This book taught me a lot in such a small space, but it only scratched the surface and there is so much left for me to research.

Masechaba is a wonderful character, and her story is both wonderful and heartbreaking. Normally I find happy / bittersweet / positive endings in books lovely but a bit boring, but this warmed me through and through (which was kind of necessary after the previous events). So much happens in this book, I found myself sucked into the story and Masechaba’s thoughts.

The plot is fast – a huge amount happens – but fairly easy to follow. By no means is it an easy read, and there are some places where I struggled to get through (I feel here is a good place to mention trigger warnings for suicide, mental illness, and sexual assault / rape, there is also a huge amount of xenophobia – it is the main theme that the book explores). There is so much discussion about menstruation as well, which was incredible to see. I don’t think any other book I have ever read has talked about it so explicitly and so much. So good to see, honestly. Masechaba has problems with her periods and they are discussed and this is exactly what literature needs.

The narrative is fairly fragmented, as it is written in the form of diary entries. The entries are addressed to God, which I admittedly kept forgetting until I was reminded through the use of ‘you’ and ‘Jesus’ in the same sentence in a few cases. I feel that this form opened the story up to the reader though, it meant I got a better insight into Masechaba’s emotional state, her thoughts, feelings, and the pacing was a lot quicker too.

Overall, I loved this book. It wasn’t an easy read at times, purely because of the subject matter, but I equally didn’t want to put it down. It is a wonderful piece of work, full of complexities and raw moments, and I would highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

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