The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated. – Alice Herz-Sommer

There are various quotes similar to the one stated above. Most of them allude to the fact that hating someone is more harmful to those who hate than to the hated person. It’s seems true to an extent, especially when the other person doesn’t understand why you dislike them so. If you maintain a passive aggressive nature and hate them in silence, you are essentially poisoning yourself with your hatred for that person who seemingly thinks everything is just fine. The Woman Next Door, the sophomore novel by South African writer Yewande Omotoso explores neighborly hatred in post-apartheid South Africa.

Hortensia and Marion share a hedge. This is both an actual hedge and a wall of hatred that separates their houses. They have much more in common than they probably give each other credit for. They’ve both been tremendously successful in their careers; Marion also having been successful as a mother. Now both women are reaching their late years and find themselves both recently widowed. It might be their one and only chance to reconcile the hatred that has instilled each other for so many years. And while that’s the last thing on Hortensia’s mind, she’ll soon have to decide if nurturing her relationship with Marion is worth any time at all.

The Woman Next Door is not a wholly expansive story, but rather a short look into a period of two women’s lives. And while we are treated to a variety of storyline in Omotoso’s second novel, the writing is just beautiful. Omotoso is able to craft a narrative that includes both the present and pasts of both women, while making it engaging enough to keep the reader wanting more and more. Hortensia and Marion also engage in several subplots, some of which could have used further elaboration, but every reader can rest assured that there are no loose ends lying around. Nothing short of a success, The Woman Next Door will surely be one of the most underrated reads of the year.

Rating – 3.5 out of 5: With her second novel and a larger publishing house, Omotoso finds success yet again in South Africa.

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