This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga: Book Review
The jury has shortlisted This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga for the 2020 Booker Prize. I bought a Kindle copy of this book when the longlist was out. I was very eager to read this book. I gave the book four stars on Goodreads, and those stars are well-deserved ones for this very unique and fresh story. This Mournable Body provides the reader with a good understanding of the Zimbabwe of the first two decades of the twenty-first century. I was shocked by some of the graphic but very moving scenes in this story, which brings Zimbabwe to life through the eyes of the controversial protagonist Tambudzai. I love novels that delve deep into another country’s culture, and this book has made me realize the many problems that Zimbabwe faces. They are battling with many issues that are subtly highlighted in Dangarembga’s novel.
The book is a good read, but one needs to read it slowly to understand the plot and what it means to be a twenty-first-century African woman out to claim the sky for her own. I could relate with the protagonist Tambudzai especially where women’s situation is concerned in Zimbabwe, mainly when she describes her trials as a biology teacher in a school. The not so shocking factor is that even though Tambudzai was a Sociology graduate, she was asked to teach Biology in school. I have not had the best experience while teaching students in a school, so I could relate to Tambudzai. I was on tenterhooks while I was reading about the situation with rowdy girl students, and I can fully imagine and recreate in my mind the terrible act done by Tambudzai. This act is what we all as teachers pray and hope that we will never find ourselves doing, but Tambudzai lands up doing it and pays the price for it. There are portions in This Mournable Body that can get under your skin and make the goosebumps crawl, like the ants that were always seeming to crawl over Tambudzai’s body.
This book is beautifully crafted and opens up to the reader gently like a lotus in bloom. The book slowly reveals to you the reality of Zimbabwe and the reality of the many different characters that make up this very straightforward plot of Tambudzai’s search for meaning and success in her life. She sees this in others, especially her ex-boss. She wants to live up to her high expectations, and I can relate to that as I am an Indian entrepreneur in the publishing world. I fully understand what it feels like to have the drive but not the means to fund or organize your dreams. That is why I liked this book. It opened up the tender side of me, made me reflect on Zimbabwe women, and what issues they go through, which are equally, if not more, horrifying as the situation in my country. This is a book that should be shared and read by women of different communities. It should be debated upon, especially the subtle symbology. The subtle symbol of a woman begging people to drink from her exposed breast brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the many sensual elements associated with an exposed breast, forgetting its essential quality of being a source of nourishment, a mammary gland, a necessary part of a woman’s body, and a sign of motherhood. That touched me at my core. There are many other book elements that one can debate and analyze with a women’s group or a book club.
I’m glad that This Mournable Body is the third book in the ‘Nervous Conditions’ series because there are two others I have yet to read. However, as a standalone book, This Mournable Body is good enough as it is. Some portions are racy in this book, and they come as surprises. I loved those surprises and kept reading into the night for those parts. The ending is one such racy part in the book, and it will make you weep. I will not forget Tambudzai’s mother for a long time to come because of the ending. No! No more spoilers from me; get your copy of This Mournable Body and read it. It is truly a heart-wrenching book. Those of us who love reading good literary fiction of communities and regions other than our own will appreciate this book, and I hope you check this book out and read it with your core group. This book needs to be read and discussed.
I have reviewed two other 2020 Booker Prize Longlisted books titled Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophia Ward and Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Please feel free to check them out. I have also reviewed a 2020 Booker Prize shortlisted book, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook. You can check that out too. Do read This Mournable Body and support the Zimbabwe writer and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga. If you are a Zimbabwe citizen, you cannot afford to miss reading and contemplating this book. Many places will make you cry and choke up with varied emotions in your heart, especially at the numerous graphic scenes involving women abuse. Be ready for that, but don’t cringe; read on. Support This Mournable Body today.
There is one more topic I wish to dwell on before I end this post. That topic is about blood. I have read numerous books regarding blood baths, blood pools, blood emissions, etc.. The vivid images created in my mind by Tsitsi Dangarembga, especially about the horrific abuse and fall of a maid or support staff, almost made me faint! Be careful. This book is not for the faint-hearted! Read this book and be ready to be surprised by the many blood-related scenes. Don’t read the book while troubled or while being anxious. Just get a cup of tea and sit in your little reading nook during the weekend and read on. Like me, if you are unable to get hold of a physical copy, try and get hold of a Kindle copy today, but don’t ignore this book. It is worth the effort, and don’t forget to discuss it with your woman’s group.
I hope to read most, if not all, of the 2020 Booker Prize longlisted and shortlisted books soon. If you are interested in more 2020 Booker Prize related essays, reviews, and bookish content, you can check it out on my blog. I’ve been following the Booker Prize for a long time, and I always buy either the paperback or hardcover copy of the longlisted books every year. This year I had to make do with the Kindle copies because of the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves. Want to know more about me, you can read my memoir Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai, which you can buy on Amazon or my products page. It will be worth your while, and you will learn about my life in books and with books.
If you are interested in more book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in buying my books, you can check out the products page. There is a lot of good stuff to buy and read. Happy reading to you always!
Copyright © 2020 Fiza Pathan