Reviewer: Thandeka Mthethwa of

Madness in Duggart is a novel that tells of the struggles that mentally ill people and their families go through in society. These struggles are depicted through a rural family, the Digames, whose only son Dooks suddenly becomes mentally ill, and his dreams of a wonderful career, shattered.  

I really enjoyed reading Madness in Duggart. It gripped my imagination right from the beginning and I wished to read it all in one sitting. With her sensitive voice, Mamotladi made me think much more considerately about people with mental incapacity. Any ignorance, conceptions and misconceptions I had were challenged in a very sincere manner. Having a family member living with mental illness herself, Mamotladi is able to delve deep into society's consciousness and portray the feelings of those affected by mental illnesses. The book is touching, thought-provoking and quite funny at the same time.

For me, what the book does well is to make the reader think a bit more kindly about ‘that lunatic’ roaming the streets – that they are someone’s child, someone’s loved one who just happened to have lost their mind. The varying emotions that a mentally ill person’s family go through in trying to come to terms with the realities of the disease are cleverly and candidly portrayed in the book. What also touched me was the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. And I loved how Mamotladi launches an attack at such stigmas by somewhat ‘humanizing’ mentally ill people, making them relatable by reminding the reader that they too have dreams and aspirations, triumphs and disappointments. She is able to portray the mentally ill as people just like me and you, not as some beings that were completely devoid of any sense of agency. I also liked how the characters in the story have different ideologies and beliefs.

With her skilful use of imagery, Mamotladi took me to rural Duggart and not only did she make me feel as though I was there with the characters, she also made me share in their hardships. Not that I did not respect them before, but Mamotladi has forever engraved in my mind that mentally ill people have hopes and dreams too, and theirs, void of any fears that ‘normal’ people typically battle against, can be as big as Rome.

I hope you will enjoy reading Madness in Duggart just as much as I did!

The above review was first published in the Republic Mail on 12 May 2017

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