Book Review: The Men I've Hated by Tinatswe Mhaka

It has often been said that life is stranger than fiction, and nothing encapsulates this more than Tinatswe Mhaka's debut novel. Inspired by true events but it reads like a creation of the imagination. Because surely T (as Tinatswe refers to herself in the novel) didn't go through all that? It seems impossible from whatever angle you look at the stories she tells.

The Men I've Hated by Tinatswe Mhaka Book Review

The Men I've Hated could've easily been titled The Men I've Loved. For it begins with love and happiness before things sour and the interactions only leave a bitter taste in the mouth. 

Tinatswe writes with surprising vulnerability and there's a raw, slightly unrefined nature to the book that makes it like it's not a novel. You almost think you're reading intimate thoughts from a secret diary, and you feel like you're Tinatswe's trusted confidant. The Men I've Hated takes us on a journey of self-discovery, through T's relationships with different men. At the centre of it, all is Joseph (often referred to as Joe).

I had not let go of the guilt that told me if I cried over one, I did not care about the other. I was a multifaceted woman and that could not be divorced from my love life. Nothing could compare to Joseph though. Nothing. And he loved me, otherwise, why was he always trying to make his undying love known?

Throughout the novel, we see Joe on two sides. On one end he's the deeply lovable asshole and on the other, he's the villain who brings great sex into the picture and he knows that the physical intimacy will weaken all of T's defences. He might be the main character but he's not the only one who we're introduced to with the same duality. There's Prince, Mandla, and Tende, the man who comes across as the knight in shining armour but turns out to be just another one of Heartbreak's henchmen.

Not forgetting the likes of Rose, Joe's girlfriend at one point in time who suddenly becomes T's public enemy number one. 

Joe and Tende dominate most of the stories told. Sometimes you want to play devil's advocate on Joe's behalf but as the story goes on he becomes indefensible and Tende, well his character arc is a shocking surprise. Tinatswe also explores the estranged relationship with her father, and she gives us a wide open door into the conflict she feels, both while he's alive and when he passes on.

My sense of identity was crumbling. I had lost the only patriarchs I had allowed in my life and I had a biological urge to replace them both. The loss of my father meant he no longer had to be accountable for his transgressions and I was left to deal with our failed relationship on my own. I could no longer ponder on the chances of reconciliation, forgiveness and an honest relationship because the time for it had come and gone. I had buried him in my head and now I would bury him in real life. Would I dance on his grave or would I cry on it?

The Men I've Hated is beautifully paced. It twists and turns from one period in time to the other and yet it flows. It tells the story of a woman finding her feet and learning to stand by her principles. Principles that happen to be feminist in nature. All the while men constantly disappoint her and help reaffirm what she stands for.

It's not a novel that has flair in its language but it keeps the writing simple and describes the events and emotions in a way that feels deeply honest.

Greedysouth rating: 7.1/10

Title: The Men I've Hated 

Authors: Tinatswe Mhaka

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Carnelian Heart Publishing

All excerpts of Tinatswe's novel are subject to copyright laws.

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