What does Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa have to do with Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare? Absolutely nothing, except for the fact that I don’t have enough thoughts on either of them works to justify a full post.
Evening Primrose by Matlwa tells the story of Masechaba who has fulfilled her ambition of becoming a doctor, something she has wanted since experiencing traumatising and debiliating issues with her periods as a child. Whilst working at the hospital she experiences more of the systematic misogyny that pervades the healthcare system and she struggles with the xenophobic tensions that are heightening in the shadow of apartheid. Whilst I appreciated this book and was drawn in by Matlwa’s writing, I felt that perhaps it covered too much in too little space. Misogyny, religion, xenophobia, racism, medical trauma, mental health, suicide, and sexual assault. For a book that was less than 200 pages, I could never quite figure out what it was about. I usually want books to be shorter, but this was a rare occasion where I wish it had been twice as long. It made many important points and the prose was gripping, but I needed more space to live with the themes with which Matlwa grappled.
I am no Shakespeare aficionado, having only read a handful of his works. I thoroughly enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing though. It was delightful, funny and heartwarming. Beatrice and Benedick both hate each other, until their friends decide to trick them into thinking the other loves them. Lo and behold, they discover they have been in love all along. A classic tale that was charming to read. That is only one of the main plots, but it was the plot I enjoyed the most. Much Ado is genuinely funny and the characters were people whom I wanted to read more about. Beatrice in particular is wonderful and invective and I wish we could read more of her rants:
O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.