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The Woman Next Door

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  1,951 Ratings  ·  347 Reviews
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 which they prune with a zeal that belies the fact that they are both over eighty.

But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 5th 2016 by Chatto & Windus
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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

In South Africa's Cape Town suburb of Constancia, Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. Both women had successful careers in their youth, are recently widowed, and they attend the neighborhood committee meetings where they delight in needling one another. Fueled by longstanding racism and unmet desires, they both long for something the other has and are subsequently bitter rivals. When unexpecte
Navidad Thelamour
I received a copy of The Woman Next Door from its publishers, Chatto and Windus, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino have been rivals for decades, though they’ve lived on the other side of a hedge from each other for all those years. In post-apartheid South Africa, one is black and one is white; what they have in common is their spunkiness in old age, that they’ve both been recently widowed and that they both feel a certain superiority from the su
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Technically it's a 2.5 from me. I liked it enough but didn't want to rush back to it when I put it down which is such a shame as I thought I'd love it. Two neighbouring women, one white and one black, hate each other and spy on each other over the dividing walls of their gardens, that is until circumstances lead them to needing each much to both their displeasure. A tale of race, apartheid, the expectations of women and old age; sadly delivered slightly too saccharine and simply for me.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, fiction
Hortensia James, 85, small with a bad leg, bitter and angry, waits for her husband to die, releasing her from sixty years in a wrecked marriage. She lives in Katyerijn, a housing colony in Cape Town Constantia in post-apartheid South Africa. She is the only black owner in the colony. Her next door neighbor is Marion Agostino, a recent widow facing financial ruin and her racism. She’s also an architect who designed the home Hortensia lives in, one she always coveted for herself, but could never p ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
Two well educated old ladies living next door to each other - one white and one black - in the 1950's. Both women had lost their husbands. There was no love lost between these two women, they bickered about everything. Only the hedge between their properties kept them apart, when all of the sudden, due to an unfortunate accident, the two women are thrown together - living together. Does this mellow their animosity or further incite it?

I tended to love some of the characters in this story and di
Jeannette Nikolova
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

Country: Barbados

The Woman Next Door is a story about the years-long feud between two neighbours, Marion and Hortensia, living in post-apartheid South Africa. While Hortensia is a woman of color, grumpy and angry at life, Marion is a racist, white snob. Both are successful in their careers, both are strong willed and don't like backing down. The sum of all of these characteristic creates a bitter relationship between them which looks like it could not
Maddie (Heart Full Of Books)
7/10 Last Year's Novels/ Contemporary Lit Module
This is one of those literary fiction novels where the main characters are female. And it's about the subtleties of how women relate to each other. Especially from different social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

Marion and Hortensia are both strong women. They've had successful businesses. Have opinions and not afraid to state them or stand up for them. Both are strong willed and sometimes stubborn. Hortensia especially so.

They've been living next door to each other in a suburb of Cape Tow
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited about this book. I would have preferred some of the backdrop as to Hortensia's character been revealed much earlier. By the time the author revealed the root of her bitterness the character was so cold and unsympathetic the reveal didn't make her any more of character I should invest in. To the author's credit I enjoyed placing two female elders at the center of the story. While I was reading I pondered how the lives of "successful" women can be shaped by others and their ac ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this! It got too simplistic towards the end, but the majority of the book was a breezy, funny, and warm look at aging and regrets. I think a novel like this proves that you can explore topics like race and reparations without writing a dark, pensive book (not that the gloomy books aren't important, but some people will respond more to this type of writing). Recommended if you're looking for a quick, fun read (and especially if you like characters with some vinegar in them!).
Christine Zibas
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic writing and excellent characters, although not what you'd expect. Two cranky old ladies in a Cape Town suburb eventually learn to come together after years of being enemies. Highly recommended!
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bailey's Women's Prize for Women's Fiction 5/16

First of all The Woman Next Door is a good book. I did not mind the writing and the characters were ok. There are flaws though and these occur throughout the whole novel.

The plot deals with Hortensia and Marion, two widows who live next door to each other and quarrel regularly. Hortense is black, Caribbean born while Marion is a Lithuanian Jewess. Both have been successful in their careers and both have suffered hardships of some sort. The setting i
Shawn Mooney
I'm interested in South African literature, so I was hoping the mediocre reviews were wrong. They were not: I bailed on this less than 10% of the way in because of the underwhelming prose.
Claire McAlpine
Loved it, this is my kind of popular summer read, it brings to mind the recent Alaskan classic I read and enjoyed immensely Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis and another that I didn't enjoy so much A Man Called Ove.

It's a tale of octogenarian women Hortensia and Marion who are neighbours in a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa, Marion is a white woman, born there, who has lived through political change, though not learned much from it, rather she h
Eric Anderson
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
There’s something so irresistible about a story where old people behave badly. Maybe it’s because we all wish we had the right to say exactly what we feel without worrying about future consequences. “The Woman Next Door” focuses on two elderly neighbours Hortensia and Marion who live in a small upscale community in South Africa. Both are professionally successful independent women, but they don’t get along at all and don’t feel the need to pretend to get on. This leads to a lot of amusing confro ...more
Ntombezinhle Nzama
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I actually enjoyed this book. Both Hortensia and Marion are just horrible human beings! I was always sooo shocked at how nasty both can be! Their individual stories actually makes you understand where the stone hearts eminate from and I just felt sorry for them more than anything...I loved how in the end they sort of found the humanity in each other and forged a strange friendship...a friendship nonetheless!
Emily Whitmore
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Devoured-it-in-a-day kind of loved this book! It's a powerful look at a modern South Africa, but also a micro look at marriage, love, motherhood. Elegantly written with so many quotable lines and moments. Pick it up!
Viv JM
I read this book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task to read "A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60." It tells the story of 80 something year old neighbours in post apartheid South Africa. Both women are widows with successful careers behind them. Hortensia is black, Marion is white and they can't stand each other. After an unfortunate accident, they end up having to spend more time together and gradually come to tolerate each other.

This was entertaining enough as a comedy
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
The Woman Next Door is about regrets and bitterness at the end of life - a cautionary tale for sure about dealing with difficulties, traumas, sadness earlier rather than later in your life. I know people who feel like both the women in the book, and like them there are life experiences that have brought them to where they are.
I know people with the kind of stuck racial thinking that the white woman displays through most of the book. As these two women were educated, independent in running their
Renita D'Silva
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wry and full of heart. Loved it.
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
Re-read it over 3 days. From 19 Oct to 22 Oct.

Excellent piece of writing. The plot is well developed and it rises and falls at appropriate times.

Yewande has a strong grasp for creative writing. The two sparring women, Hortensia and Marion, are detestable, at first glance. Around page 20 (this is a 278 pager) I began to slowly change my perception. As their personas are revealed, layer by layer, I realised that at their advanced age, they both needed to heal, to be loved, to be accepted and most
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of two strong, stubborn, and quite frankly hard-to-like women, one white and one black, in post-apartheid South Africa. The story is about their strained relationship, but it's also about family, marriage, race relations, and growing old.
What I loved about this book was its resistance to creating stereotypical characters. The author portrays both women as strong, successful, angry, flawed, seemingly unlikable, but ultimately sympathetic. It's a unique
My interview with the author:


– To discover that if she remembered while walking, the memories were bearable. –

– Later, when Peter would tease Hortensia for her love of beautiful things, what he couldn't have known was that he'd been that for her once too – a beautiful thing, perfect and in need of nothing. –

– It saddened her that what she considered the best thing about herself was a puzzle to her husband. –

– Hating, after all, was a drier form of
Mairead Hearne (

The Woman Next Door is the latest novel from Yewande Omotoso. Just released earlier this month by Chatto & Windus, I received my copy from in return for an honest review.

‘Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. Both are living with questions, disappointments, secrets. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hatred a
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, fiction
"She had teeth in her heart. Marion knew they shouldn't be there, but there they were: teeth in her heart."

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino share a few similarities: they're both of a certain age, they're both widowed or nearly widowed, they both worked their hearts out to get to the top of their respective professional fields, and for different reasons, they each started living small--making themselves smaller, smothering a part of themselves--years ago. You wouldn't know this self-repressio
Cherise Wolas
Fascinating. Two strong-willed women, both in their 80s, have a long-standing enmity. Hortensia, who is black and a textile designer, and Marion, who is a white and was an architect, live next door to each other in post-apartheid Cape Town, South Africa. The problems between them run deep, and then an accident brings them together. This is a thoughtful novel, in which racism, racial inequality, racial assumptions and violence, and South Africa's problems in the apartheid and then in the post-apa ...more
Bee (Heart Full of Books)
4/10 for Last Year's Novels module.

Just so dull. At least My Name Is Lucy Barton had a really personable main character so I was compelled to read about her life, whereas Hortensia and Marion were boring. I thought this would have more to say about judging on appearances and finding friendship, but nope. It felt like there was hardly any development at all.
Erica Mangin
This book starts off as a seemingly light-hearted story about two neighbours Hortensia and Marion who don't really like each other. But as you peel back the layers of the story and get to know the characters and their histories more it becomes a heartwarming and strong discussion on race, love, marriage and family. Really well-written.
Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
The Woman Next Door was a fantastic surprise for me…and it’s likely to end up on my Underrated Gems of 2017 list. It’s like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. The story kicks off with snarky humor before taking a more contemplative turn. Two next door neighbors (Marion and Hortensia) can’t stand each other and are constantly plotting how to figuratively take the other one down, yet The Woman Next Door ends up being a story about friendship an ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book! Funny and poignant, sad and thoughtful. This is a book I'll read again and again, (and I'm going to buy).
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YEWANDE OMOTOSO was born in Barbados and grew up in Nigeria, moving to South Africa with her family in 1992. She is the author of Bom Boy, published in South Africa in 2011. In 2012 she was on the South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author and was shortlisted for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize. In 2013 she was a finalist in the the inaugural, pan-African Etisalat Fi ...more
More about Yewande Omotoso

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