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The Matron

Authors: Dawn Garisch

Published by Myrmidon


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A literary sledgehammer of a novel that seems sure to garner both controversy and critical acclaim in equal measure.

Perfect book club reading, there are powerful themes at work in the background: from the genesis of apartheid, the Black Sash demonstrations and the racist attitudes of the times to the confining corridors of an exclusive boarding school and their effect on small boys. None of this overpowers the Matron’s story as, with a perfectly measured and intimate first person narrative, Garisch gets inside the mind of a desperately lonely middle aged spinster who, desperate for love and the means of assuaging her sense of guilt, slides inexorably towards her own destruction.

In the mid 1950s, lonely middle-aged spinster, Phyllis, has spent much of her adult life caring for her ailing mother. On her mother’s death, she takes a position as a matron at an exclusive Cape Town boarding school.

She begins to keep a journal of her daily encounters and experiences- something she has not done since the age of sixteen, before falling pregnant by her cousin and being forced to give the child up for adoption. As she tries to settle into her new life, Phyllis remains haunted by her secret guilt and shame. Then a new boy is enrolled into the school and Phyllis becomes convinced he is her grandson. Michael, small and vulnerable, quickly becomes a victim of bullying and Phyllis finds a renewed purpose in seeing to his comfort and protection. But the purpose she has found for herself will have consequences more devastating than ever she could have imagined.

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