The Woman Next Door Summary & Study Guide

Yewande Omotoso
This Study Guide consists of approximately 35 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Woman Next Door.
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The Woman Next Door Summary & Study Guide Description

The Woman Next Door Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Omotoso, Yewande. The Woman Next Door. Picador. 2016.

The Woman Next Door is contemporary novel of South African race relations by Yewande Omotoso in which two elderly, widowed women -one black, one white -attempt to overcome their pasts while befriending one another. Hortensia James, wealthy and well-known from her interior design business, lives in Kitterijn, a wealthy, nearly all-white neighborhood in Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town. For years, the black Hortensia has been a bitter woman, having dealt with the years-long affair of her now-dead husband which has caused her to become caustic with most people by default.

Hortensia has had a long-standing feud with her neighbor, the white Marion Agostino. Hortensia believes Marion is racist, and delights in her feud with Marion. Marion, meanwhile, though she admits she harbored racist tendencies when young, has come a long way and does not believe she is racist anymore. Likewise, she believes there is more to life than race. Marion, whose dead husband left her without any money and in deep debt, thrives on the things she can control in the present, such as the neighborhood committee. Marion’s long-standing feud with Hortensia continually surfaces at the committee (which Hortensia attends and constantly calls racist). Marion, a retired architect, harbors resentment that Marion lives in No. 10 Katterijn, as Marion herself hoped to live in it: it was the first house she ever designed and had tried for decades to buy the house.

The committee faces two issues. First, a government act which awards money and land to South Africans who were unfairly cheated from their land and homes in the past, turns its sights on Katterijn Vineyard, owned by the Von Struiker family. The Von Struiker family has a legacy of racism and slavery, though it acquired the land they own now being challenged legally. At the same time, Hortensia learns the descendants of slaves who lived on her property wish to bury the ashes of their grandmother at a funeral tree. At first, Hortensia rejects the request while Marion seeks to stop the loss of the vineyard lands. But this later changes.

Hortensia’s decision to do work on No. 10 infuriates Marion, but a work accident leads to the destruction of a part of Marion’s own house, No. 12, due to a runaway crane. Hortensia must swallow her pride and apologize - and offers Marion the chance to live with her. Marion accepts, and over the next several weeks, the two women come to learn more about one another. For example, Hortensia confesses she feels guilty she was never able to become a mother, and resents that her dead husband had a child outside of wedlock. Marion confesses she herself, with four children, feels like a failed mother as three of her children barely keep in touch. Hortensia confesses why she hates so many people, while Marion confesses that she harbors great guilt over the racist past of South Africa, and her own inaction against apartheid.

Ultimately, at Marion’s urging, Hortensia agrees to allow the burial of the grandmother on her property at the tree. With clarity of friendship, Marion comes to agree that something must be done for those seeking the land at the vineyard. The state reaches a solution where part of a nearby park will be turned over to control of the claimants. As the novel ends, Hortensia and Marion begin going on walks together, spending more time with one another, and becoming genuine friends with one another.

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This section contains 598 words
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