Yearning (noun): A feeling of intense longing for something. How long does it take for scars to heal? How long does it take for a scarred memory to fester and rise to the surface? For Marubini, the question is whether scars ever heal when you forget they are there to begin with. Marubini is a young woman who has an enviable life in Cape Town, working at a wine farm and spending idyllic days with her friends ... until her past starts spilling into her present. Something dark has been lurking in the shadows of Marubini’s life from as far back as she can remember. It’s only a matter of time before it reaches out and grabs at her. The Yearning is a memorable exploration of the ripple effects of the past, of personal strength and courage, and of the shadowy intersections of traditional and modern worlds.
‘A bewitching addition to the current South African literary boom. Mohale Mashigo tells her story with charming lucidity, disarming characterisation, subversive wisdom and subtle humour.’ – ZAKES MDA
An intriguing tale woven by beads of twists and turns which kept me turning the pages.
Beautifully crafted prose meandering between Marubini and her present life in Cape Town. A life filled with wines, the ocean, food, Unathi, Pierre, Sim, frightening nightmares and unexplained seizures. Amidst all that, the persistent visits from her deceased father are relentless.
Going back home to Soweto to attend her cousin's wedding, the source of her nightly woes and fainting spells is revealed.
I loved the way Mohale entertwained the little stories and wound them tightly together into this believable tale.
I loved how the relationship between Sim and Rubi came through and saw Rubi through her darkest time and healed them both. I loved how both her maternal and paternal grandparents were part of her life and anchored her. I loved how her relationship with her mother evolved and I understood. When we are young daughters our mothers are our heroes. As young adults we push them away while carving our own paths. Eventually our paths lead us back to them and our journeys are completed.
Mohale is an exceptional writer. Thoughtful, sensitive and considerate. The themes explored in this book were quite heavy and yet were not handled with frivolity. Her telling of Rubi's story is so sincere that it felt like it was not a work of fiction.
I loved reading this book. I took my time and thought about some of what I was reading so that I could process it. Everything was so believable and so many surprises along the way. I only dream of writing this well and telling such stories with so much bravery. I am proud of this author even though I do not know her and she does not know me.
For me it is hard to talk about what the book is about without spoiling it for those still to discover it but believe me when I say that the story between these pages is worth discovering. It has a way or augmenting understanding and tolerance for things we do not understand about others and things we revolt against.
I will be nagging everyone in my family to read this book.
I should probably start off with a disclaimer. The author of this book is a friend. But, I would not actually write a review if I did not enjoy reading the book. It is easy to read but, more importantly, it has enough intrigue to it to keep you reading. I love that the context is firmly rooted in South Africa and not simply suburbia or poverty in the township but a more complex reality which is what South Africa, 22 years after democracy, is.
In a dialogue at the Johannesburg launch of the book, renowned South African author Zakes Mda remarked how this is one book that would not win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award because of the way even the first time fumblings of two teenagers was written in a way that was not cliched or awkward. None of the book is.
I have picked this book up in a second-hand book shop in Durban after seeing it listed in numerous “Best of South-African fiction”-lists. Not having anything else to read on our SA road trip, I bought it with the don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover mindset.
The narrative is centered around the main character Marubini, whose troubled past slowly starts to creep in and hunt her. She starts to yearn the truth about her origin, her upbringing, and her family. Although she is a “modern Capetonian”, to uncover these truths she needs to dab back into the Zulu traditional religion and communicate with her ancestors.
Again, I am not in the position to critique this book. I am a white European and used to western-centric literature, thus, the concepts derived from the Zulu traditional religion are quite distant to me. Throughout the reading I was never able to grasp on to them (and I was never meant to). I also felt like Mashigo didn’t develop enough on themes and characters that she introduced in the book (for example, her relationship to Nhlanhla, Ntatemoholos death etc.) which made the whole plot seem a bit rushed.
However, as I am not familiar with the South African literary tradition, I’ve decided not to rate this book. I am sure it must be enjoyable for many non-white people sharing the authors context.
Deliciously written. I loved the sex scenes to bits. Mohale's choice of words smooth into each other and you can't put it down until you finish. When you do put it down, you feel like the characters are a part of your life and so you are left with many questions. You can't wait to get back home to sit with the book. Totally unpredictable ending but I would have loved to see a more solid ending as it was a bit underwhelming given the strength of the entire book. A MUST READ!
A very well written book that though it’s fiction, it is hard to accept it as such. A book that confirms that the past is always part of our present vs. Sometimes we are affected by things that are too deep that happened in our past. Some of our pain we bury and shelve so far in the back of our minds and move on with our lives. Unfortunately some of these things resurface and deal with us in a manner that we would not understand. The story of Marubini (Rubi), a girl that grew up in Soweto and Limpopo that ended up working in the vineyard in Capetown that later suffered multiple of seizures, seeing monsters from her past in the form of nightmares. Luckily for her she still had her grandparents and her mother that knew what had happened to her at a very young age.
I liked the fact that in the book Rubi, though the signs of her having a calling were evident all along but did not rush the process. Thanks to her granny who said these things have a way of being reviled. In our small communities we have seen an influx of youngsters turned into Sangomas without really understanding and without waiting for the right time. Most end up being useless sangomas that do not even know how to practice. Patience is what I learned in this book. Yearning for the truth and finding out the causes of all her dreams, the shadows and all. Abaphansi will direct and show you the way and where to go for such things. It was also evident in this book that the fact that you have abantu abadala, does not mean you have to practice (Rubi’s brother is an example). I loved Rubi’s relationship with her brother, had it not for granny, him too was going to be a sangoma. He had a talent of sketching out all his dreams about what happened to his family especially about his sister.
I also enjoyed how the author kept touching on the young Marubini, reviling things bit by bit until you understand what caused certain things and behaviours that are in previous pages of the story. Traditional vs Modern ways of healing took the cup for me. As you understand how things were done and how even today life can force you to go the same route that your forefathers went through.
It was a challenge for me reading this book in between my busy schedule, otherwise it is a book you would not want to put down as you might miss some details as the story goes back and forth (the young and old Rubi- flashbacks). So I had to go back and forth as well trying to tie up details.
Her sex scenes were all weird, I loved the fact that she did not use those normal words that are used in such scenes. As you read, you still expect something more, and she is done. She has her own terminology that will force you to use your mind rather than the usual terms.
The young Rubi and her Ntatemoholo (grandfather) scenes, were the best. Rubi was almost the 1st drop out yase pre school. The love they shared was amazing!!
Thanks to Mashigo for writing a novel that felt so real. I cannot wait to get my hands on her other books. Great story teller too. Yearning for the truth of who you are and your purpose. Well done!!
The careful unfolding of the story of Marubini and the intricate weaving of her history left me spellbound. Mashigo leads us gently along a path allowing us to live with her characters as their story is revealed. I don't think an ending has ever been so perfect. It is outstanding.
"That day my Nkono sat me down and started telling me about the female anatomy and the changes that would take place in me. This was the conversation she had waited her whole life to have. A girl is like a seed; just the beginning stage of something big, something wonderful that will affect the whole world in ways unthought of, she told me. Many little girls grow up not knowing that they are the reason the world is still turning. Nkono could see that I was listening but not fully understanding; she kept going, knowing that this was only the first phase of my education." I didn't expect this to be a five star read but it turned out to be just that, a very interesting story, told with a mastery that made me forget it was her very first novel. This is the story of Marubini, a successful young woman who has it all to be happy. A job she appreciates, a man who honestly loves her and a family to support her in everything she does. But soon she starts having seizures and feeling as if something/somebody was trying to bring her down in the dirtiest way possible. Deep down inside of her she knows everything to be linked to her past but she is yet to find how to unravel the strands. There are many twists and turns in this tale that will definitely keep you flipping pages, the themes are quite heavy but the writer's sensitivity will make it easy or bearable for you as a reader to keep going. I loved the way our ancestry is paid tribute to, not caricatural at all and being a Bantu woman myself, I sure enjoyed it. At times it felt like a SFF but the more I went on, the more it became"real" this is a fiction that eventually doesn't read like one...if that makes sense ! I HIGHLY recommend it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I really enjoyed this novel. It’s a nice mixture of poetic and ordinary and of the protagonist’s past and present. I think the author wrote about a number of themes that are both South African and universal. It’s a debut novel and I don’t think that Mashigo has shown her full set of writing skills yet so I’d be really keen to read more from her.
A novel filled with heart, dealing with family, cultural and wider social issues. Mashigo puts many of South Africa's dark challenges under the spotlight, but it's not a heavy read - she has a wonderfully light touch. There are some beautiful lines, and Ruby is a character I enjoyed spending time with.
The title ‘The Yearning’ left me intrigued throughout the book as I tried to make sense of what the author yearned for. Author takes you on many twists as the story explores themes of African culture, gender violence, politics and religion in a modern day South African story. I was a bit thrown by the flashbacks and was getting impatient with the change of setting and the back and forth. It was all a part of the plot!
I was captivated by the book from the begining all the way through to end. I loved how the auther changed scenes by changing font, took me about four parts to get with the programme but I eventually did. I took my time in reading the book, I learnt so much about some African culuters/practise that I dont entirely practise but it was eye opening. The twist and turn of events caught me. I loved this book
The Yearning, by Mohale Mashigo, winner of the 2016 University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing, is an unusual novel. Because it explores the impacts of traditional healing techniques, it places the reader in the same position as the reader of Ali Alizadeh’s novel The Last Days of Jeanne d’Arc: both novels depict mystical experiences and characters acting on spiritual beliefs that most people in the contemporary western world don’t believe in. But Alizadeh’s novel overtly acknowledges that there is no satisfactory proof of Jeanne’s visions, and the reader can choose to believe in them or not without spoiling the novel. That’s not the case with The Yearning. The reader has to accept that release from psychological torment comes from traditional practices that seem very strange indeed, if not downright harmful.
The other problem with Mashigo’s novel is that it takes a while to develop any narrative tension. Marubini is a young woman living in Cape Town. She works in marketing for a wine company, she has relationship issues with her mother and with her boyfriend Pierre, and she hangs around with her girlfriend Unathi. She is also grieving the death of her grandfather Ntatemoholo and her father Baba who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Apart from some minor commentary about patronising racism that still persists in her workplace, this is all a bit lightweight and it goes on for about one-fifth of the novel.
It is when Marubini begins to suffer what are thought to be seizures that the book becomes more interesting. When these seizures occur, she sees her dead father and she also experiences what might be visions or flashbacks to some traumatic experience in her past. (And yes, I guessed what that was, as most readers will, though it’s not quite in the form that I thought it would be).
Marubini has everything going on for her in Cape Town, she has a well paying job, a partner that loves her and a good support system. She grew up believing she was different, she came in contact with strange things and you know how one’s childhood is the foundation of everything. Childhood influences a lot of things.
There were so new things that welcomed me in this book. There is a phase in Marubini’s life that her grandfather lives with her family. He cooks, stays and takes care of her while her mother is away. Before you roll your eyes at me, I know we are pushing for a forward thinking generation that does not just box women in domesticity while ‘allowing’ men to do what they liked. It was new to me and great that the author included it not even for a newer generation but an old one.
This book is gripping. Marubini struggles to be present in her daily activities as strings from the past pull her in, holds her down and presents her to another realm beyond the physical.
In all honesty, I was enjoying Marubini’s love story I thought the writer would play it safe by just cooking up twists and turns to make our heart flutter and butterflies rumble in our stomach. The writer does not play it safe, as she pens Marubini’s story of the present, she gives us closure with stories from her past.
I enjoyed this book. Words beautifully written, closure presented on a platter although sometimes I just wanted to deal with Marubini’s present and not the baggage that peeped from her past. There were few things that did not sit well with me in the book but I’d be spoiling it by talking about it.
It’s been a while since I read a book that is so relatable, with characters that come to life, that I am able to identify with. This is one of those books. A book about love and friendship, that turns into something deeper and pulls you in, keeping you glued from start to finish.
Marubini is a 30 something year old (me) South African woman (not me) living in Cape Town (also not me). She has a good job, working in the marketing department at a Wine Farm. Her career is going great. She has one of those enviable relationship with her best friend, Unathi, and is dating a French chef who owns a restaurant in Cape Town and is set to open another one. Everything seems perfect until it’s not.
When Marubini starts blacking out, having seizures and seeing shadows, she realizes something is off and her search for the truth leads her to discover more than she had bargained for. Secrets from a past she had forgotten. And only when she faces her past will she be able to embrace her future.
An amazing story of strength, hurt, culture and traditions and of the the past intersecting with the future. Mohale tells the story beautifully in first person and the flow of the story keeps you intrigued and interested from beginning to end. I particularly loved how she used flashbacks from her childhood to fill in gaps in the future story. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut book and will definitely be on the lookout for more of her works. 3.5/5 Stars
This is the debut novel by singer/songwriter Mohale Mashigo (better known as Black Porcelain). I got this book from Pan Macmillan SA and have also seen it recommended by a few ‘bookstagrammers’.
The back of this book was intriguing and odd, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The story follows the main character, Marubini (‘Rubi’), in her daily life living in Cape Town, South Africa. Rubi lives a good life, has a great job, a hot, caring boyfriend, and plenty going for her. The story also includes many flashbacks to her childhood, which are both interesting and mysterious.
Just when all seems to be going well, strange things start happening to Rubi – things she can’t quite explain and when she tries to, no one believes her.
Rubi finds herself yearning to get to the bottom of these strange physical reactions to issues that she knows are psychological ones from the past. She yearns for the truth and wants to understand what happened long ago that keeps seeping into the present.
This book is beautifully written and has some interspersed poetry in some parts of it, which is exquisite. Mashigo has created tension, turmoil, love, and dedication in her characters with striking seamlessness. The novel also juxtaposes what many young South Africans face: living in a world as adults that is vastly different from the one that they lived in as children and, sometimes, the ones that their parents and grandparents still inhabit. It also contrasts holding traditional beliefs with living in a city where there is a cosmopolitan set of views and beliefs.
This novel is also very South African. I really, really liked it because of that, but I wonder how accessible some parts of it are to non-South Africans. Perhaps the author doesn’t mind and just wrote this book for us J. Notwithstanding this, I strongly recommend this book for it poetic beauty, its depth, and the characters’ resilience.
My rating: 4 stars
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The Yearning was an intriguing book to read and the characters really drew you in. I liked how Mashigo peppered the story with a mix of traditional knowledge and histories and juxtaposing with the cosmopolitan world of Cape Town. Sometimes the best way to deal with trauma is to use everything you can - family, local/historical knowledge, and whatever "western" tools you can. I felt for Marubini (how can you not??) and the other characters touched by darkness but found the emphasis on being culturally centred and finding strength in this to be refreshing and important - especially in South Africa where many historical and current traumas intersect and respect is mostly afforded to the "modern" over the "traditional" methods of healing. The story, though at times fantastical, paints a realistic portrait of the continued violence of modern (and deeply scarred) South Africa where freedom may be more of an individual/fractured journey rather than the grand political freedoms that were championed by the movements of the 20th century.
While the people are authentically rooted in the context of South Africa, the characterisation and the issues are universal. You know little Morubini; perhaps she is you.
I loved that are plenty of strong female characters in this story, all of whom are beautifully and colourfully written, while I find that the author is still careful and considerate around the men and boy character - despite the central tragedy of the story. I’m sure that’s hard to achieve, especially in the context of South Africa’s deep-rooted issues around gender-based violence.
The author handles these horrific issues with such grace, never once turning her back on the “inner” child who is struggling to find belonging.
The characters sometimes uses phrases in other languages but, if you’re South African, you recognise how necessary those are for authenticity and anyway they’re easy to decipher.
The author leaves you wanting to know more but, having shared in the pain and the power of this exceptional family, you accept that some things are not for the awareness of outsiders like you and me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Waited 3 years to read the book and my goodness it was worth it! Mohale is an amazing story teller who keeps you hooked and leaves you yearning for more. I did not want to put the book down once I started. The first sentence literally locked me in. I love how she covers womanhood, family, relationships and spiritual gifts in a way that is easily understandable. Marubini is a modern women residing in Cape Town who still adores her hometown, has a successful career and a healthy relationship with her boyfriend and family, well brother. An unsettling event happens which makes her question things around her and wanting to unveil the hidden trauma. I love the supportive people Marubini has in her life. This is a beautiful story with a beautiful ending.
A beautiful book - gentle, evocative, haunting and thought-provoking. It starts off a little slowly, but in this way Mashigo builds up a context essential to the rest of the story. As the story progresses we gradually learn more about the main character, Rubi, and her father and grandmother. It is hard to say too much about this book without giving away the story - but it is beautifully written and hard to put down. (The only thing that really annoyed me about the book is the repeated grammatical error when the author uses "you and I" (instead of "you and me" when both pronouns are objects, not subjects..... I think the editors should have picked that up.)
From the streets of Soweto to de Villers wine estate boardrooms in Cape Town. Marubini is the first baby to survive from her mother’s pregnancies, hence the opening line “my mother died seven times before she gave birth to me. I am grateful for the corpse that somehow seemed to resurrect itself”. And her name, her grandmother believed she was a new beginning for those who lived long lives and needs respite, where the past lies, place of old from where they once came.
In the yearning, Mohale explores the intersection of the past with the present. To highlight the importance of past confrontation and honesty, healing and acceptance. With her life flourishing in Cape Town, Marubini is back home and her dreams and nightmares about the past are finally confronted to bring about healing.
This book is well-paced, easy to get to and maintain the atmosphere. The font different between the past and recent events, made it easy to understand both points of views. The exploration of the past, present and the intersection of both the modern and traditional world makes it a great way to start the conversation about beliefs and religion and experiences. .