Period Pain / Evening Primrose

In compelling, heart-wrenching prose, Evening Primrose explores the issues of race, poverty and gender, drawing on the author’s unique insight into post-apartheid South Africa’s healthcare.

Told in the first person, 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 working in an under-resourced state hospital. As Masechaba leaves her deeply religious mother she tries to come to terms with the death of her brother and the suffering she witnesses every day as a medical professional.

«Kopano Matlwa’s brave and lyrical Evening Primrose, by contrast, offers a first-person narrative with a very clear occasion of narration, using the ever-present threat of its protagonist’s psychic disintegration to stunning effect. Matlwa’s third novel is a welcome return to the form of her celebrated debut, Coconut (2007), with whose memorable protagonists Evening Primrose‘s, Masechaba shares much. Masechaba is a trainee doctor faced with multiple stresses, not least exhaustion in the face of a strained health service that occasions awful ethical dilemmas. A representative young black woman of the born-free (post-1994) generation, she confesses her deepest fears and identity-shattering doubts in an account for a therapist after a devastating assault. The result is an immediacy that is only superficially straightforward: there is a level of self-reflexiveness that eschews gratuitous collage, and while it is clear that Matlwa draws on her own experience (she too is a medical doctor by training), the mask of fiction does not slip.» Times Literary Supplement

«The slim Evening Primrose tackles more than many books twice its length. Masechaba addresses her diaries to God. And because God knows all, she hides nothing. The pages are raw. This is the best kind of political novel, one where the author allows her characters a full and complicated humanity. Evening Primrose’s turns of emotion are virtuosic. The novel dances from satire to slapstick to stabbing pain to tentative hope. Mabaso’s voice is one we need.» Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, award-winning author of Harmless Like You

«This is easily one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year…. ultimately life-affirming and full of optimism. A stunning read for anyone who wants to get firsthand insight into present day South Africa.» Book Riot

«A harrowing and vital novel exploring issues of race and gender through the eyes of a young doctor in South Africa’s public healthcare system. I read it in one sitting and was totally overwhelmed.» London Review Bookshop

«A must read.» Stylist

«A critical exploration of contemporary xenophobia and the lasting socioeconomic effects of apartheid (…) Nuanced and impressive.» Publishers Weekly

«Exploring faith and education, inheritance and renewal, Matlwa’s inventions are both human and divine.» Booklist

«This sensational story of suffering from South Africa is at the same time overwhelming, beautiful, and hopeful.» Stavanger Aftenblad

«Written in delicate prose recalling Zinzi Clemmons’s What We Lose, this raw, honest work draws readers into Masechaba’s South African world and will appeal to lovers of African, medical, and literary fiction.» Starred review, Library Journal

«Matlwa takes on themes of gender, race and national identity with a distinctive and engaging voice, pinwheeling from humorous to heart-stabbing and (almost) back again in a mere 150 pages.» AnOther Magazine

«I highly recommend this book, it gave me an insight into a country I don’t know a great deal about and also brought an important female voice to fiction- a marginalised woman facing her demons and rising above them.» Shell Senseless

Publishers worldwide:
ENGLISH (UK & Commonwealth) | Sceptre / Hodder & Stoughton
ENGLISH (North America) | Quercus Books
ENGLISH (SA) | Jacana Media
CATALAN | Catedral
GERMAN | btb Verlag
ITALIAN | Bompiani
NORWEGIAN | Solum Bokvennen
POLISH | Czarna Owca
SPANISH | Catedral