I Was Reading: Kopano Matlwa - Spilt Milk

I finally got around to finishing Spilt Milk, the second book by young South African author, Kopano Matlwa of Coconut fame.
I picked up a copy of Coconut when I was in high school, at a time when I was struggling to make sense of what everyone was saying I was, and put it against what I thought I was. It was a story about identity and coming of age, so it fit into my life really well. So well, that I expected everything that Matlwa wrote to resonate with me, so I loved Spilt Milk before I had even read it.

Spilt Milk tells the story of Mohumagadi and Father Bill, two people whose past relationship left them both uncertain of what was true and what was not, and what was worth defying the system (i.e. the structures of apartheid) for. The story is told as a retrospective, and details about just what Mohumagadi and Father Bill experienced together are set out in retelling of memories and diary entries scattered throughout the text.

It is an easy read, and there are moments in the narrative which prompt serious thought, but I still found that the story was very tedious. It was almost as if the subject matter which Matlwa was handling was too vast for the 195 pages of the novel, and a lot of things were left unsaid or only addressed briefly- the resolution at the end of the story seems superficial and cursory.
This could just be because I have read too much of this type of "writing back" literature, where people go back to the past and try to "teach" the readers something, and now I'm tired of it. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.

Read it if you want a book with some quotable dialogue that you can throw into the conversation next time you want to say something which is impressive, but which ultimately doesn't make much sense- you just end up looking smart in a "no one understands it, and that's why it's so cool" type of way.

Read alternate reviews at Mimi Magazine and GoodReads.

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