Author: Panashe Chigumadzis
Publication year: 2015
Hey there my awesome readers hope you are keeping well and that in 2019 you are kicking butt and taking names. For our first book review for the year I am reviewing debut novel Sweet medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi. One of my favourite things about summertime and being on holiday is that there is more time for novels and I can read a book a day. I am always looking for more local authors to read and when I came across this book I just knew I had to read it.
“Tsitsi and the rest of the nation who now found themselves degreed and broke, her parents and the parents of the nation with degreed children and still broke, had thought-convinced themselves-that the poverty of their lives could be eliminated by 'professionalisation'.”
Set in Zimbabwe in 2008 at the height of the country’s economic woes. Sweet medicine follows Tsitsi who is raised a devout catholic, whom after graduating with a degree in economics finds life in the real world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Her income barely covers her transport fees let alone her other responsibilities of taking care of her mother and uncle. She then decides to go against her the way in which she was raised and secure economic security by seducing her much older boss.
What I thought
I enjoyed reading this novel as the characters were truly well fleshed out, a lot of themes were dealt with such as feminism, spiritual and political freedoms and poverty. I found it quite an easy read and it had me enthralled right from the very first word to the last.
Strong female characters
Tsitsi -is flawed as any great character lead should be. I admired her hard work ethic and some of her tactics to study longer (studying with feet in cold water) I shared her disappointment when she came to the realisation that hard work doesn’t always translate to a great reward in the real world.
Tsitsi mother- depicted as this strong woman who raised her daughter with a lot of expectations often sacrificing a lot to give her the best education. When Tsitsi marries Zvobgo she is still strong but is more silent due to her compliance (receiving food and medical care from her daughters’ husband who is her age).
The first Mrs Zvobgo- who not only debates with her husband as an equal in public settings, where many are silent, but she is also the one who files for divorce on her own terms.
Chiedza– Tsitsi college best friend Chiedza who teaches Tsitsi the art of seduction, putting on makeup and tells her the truth especially when it isn’t asked of her. Instead of looking to men for security goes on the black market and makes money and buys apartments so she can have a steady flow of income.
As much as I enjoyed the depiction of strong women, one would be remiss to not talk about the poverty theme in the book. The vast differences of lifestyle of the social elite that Tsitsi enters into, a lifestyle she never fully fits in due to her own insecurities of having grown up as a rural girl this also influences how she treats her staff.
About the author
Panashe was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in South Africa. She is the founder and editor of the Vanguard Magazine, a womanist platform for young black women coming of age in post-apartheid South Africa. She is also a 2015 Ruth first Fellow.
Have you read this novel what have been some of your favourite parts? Perhaps you have some local authors you would like to suggest for me to read, please let me know in the comments section as always I love hearing from you.