The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Publisher: Kachifo Farafina
Release Date: May 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Find It: Jumia
Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility and pruning both with a vim and zeal that belies the fact that they are over eighty.
But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late to expect these two to change?
Two “retired” women who take almost obscene pleasure in tormenting one another suddenly find themselves in need and with no one to rely on but each other. Loads of drama and reminiscing ensue.
Hortensia, a textile designer, and Marion, a former architect, have serious issues with each other. Hortensia can barely stand Marion’s false niceness & self-importance. She resents the sugar-coated racism Marion practices and takes great pleasure in making her miserable.
Marion, who designed Hortensia’s home as a young architect, hasn’t gotten over the fact that someone as undeserving (code for black) as Hortensia owns “her” house. The fact that she has to live next door to witness all that goes on at “her” house doesn’t fill her with charitable feelings towards Hortensia.
When Hortensia decides to renovate her home after the death of her husband, this news almost drives Marion insane. Then a major incident during the renovation leaves Marion homeless and Hortensia indebted to her. This forces the women into a mutually beneficial arrangement which forces them to be civil to each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso. I was apprehensive about reading another Omotoso book after my experience with her debut novel, Bomboy. However since it made the Bailey’s Prize long list, I figured it couldn’t be so terrible.
Hortensia is one character you won’t forget in a hurry. When we meet her, she’s cranky, bitter, even mean. As her story unfolds, we soon realise her demeanour is a defence mechanism after years of betrayal and disappointment. Hortensia is such a solid character that Marion got lost beneath her shadow somewhere in the middle.
I feel like a lot of questions about her character was left unanswered. For instance, how did she end up with kids who want nothing to with her? A lot of people disagree with their parents on major issues, doesn’t stop them from caring for them. I feel there’s more to the story than her racist beliefs and actions.
In all, this is a solid novel from Yewande Omotoso. A beautiful improvement from her last and I am so happy I didn’t write her off after my bitter review of Bomboy.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso is proof that people deserve second chances. It was an easy read, It reminded me of the Harlequin type books I read in secondary school. Light & Breezy. I’ll recommend this for fun days when you need a book that’ll bring a smile to your face.
Also, The Woman Next Door is light years away from Bomboy. In fact, it feels like 2 completely different people wrote these books.
Quiet and obsessed with books.