Kate Sidley reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch for the Sunday Times

A small world of deep metaphorical meaning

There is a lot in this slim book – art and science, family and culture, the workings of the heart and of the body

Review by Kate Sidley

On a farm in the Eastern Cape, Kate wakes before dawn, her head and heart in turmoil. She has good reason to worry – today is the day that her baby grandsons, conjoined twins, are to be separated. The risky surgery will take place in London. Kate’s estranged daughter, Jess, has told her definitively, and hurtfully: “Don’t come.”

On the same farm, Nosisi awaits the return of her son, who is undergoing the traditional initiation into manhood. Another anxious mother, another separation, another child at risk.

“So many women down the ages have lain awake in the earth’s great shadow, insomniac over their progeny, their sons and daughters intent on escaping their mothers’ intractable worry,” writes Dawn Garisch in Breaking Milk.

The book takes place over one day, from Kate’s early-morning wake up, and within the confines of the farm and the house she shares with her demented father and his carer. As she ponders her painful choice – respecting her daughter’s wishes, or rushing to be at her side – she must continue to take care of business. Once a microbiologist geneticist working on embryos in a fertility lab, she is now the creator of prize-winning goat’s cheese…

Continue reading: Sunday Times

Fynboshoek – the inspiration for Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

‘Visiting the cheese farm today felt like walking into my novel,’ Dawn Garisch wrote after her recent return to Fynboshoek, the place which inspired the setting of her latest novel, Breaking Milk.

Breaking Milk concerns a day in the life of Kate, a cheese maker.

Don’t come, she is told by her only child. Jess is keeping her mother at a distance on the day that her own children, conjoined twins, are to be separated during high-risk surgery in London.

Kate wakes on her farm in the Eastern Cape, torn between respecting Jess’s wishes and a longing to rush to her estranged daughter’s side.

A former geneticist disillusioned by the pressing ethical questions posed by her job, Kate is now an award-winning maker of organic cheese. She relies on the farm’s routine and the people and animals in her life to hold steady as her day teeters on a knife’s edge.

Meanwhile, her employee Nosisi’s son is undergoing initiation. Forbidden to have contact with him during this traditional passage into the world of manhood, his mother anxiously awaits his return…

Fynboshoek6

The sky is clotted with cloud, but the background blue is clear, rinsed by the night’s rain. The farmer’s need to know the weather blurs with Kate’s artistic appreciation of cloudscapes – the infinite variety of forms: misty wisps and erupted whites above the underlining of the land.
Kate’s small farm appears over the rise, nestled in beside the dam – an oasis of fynbos and indigenous trees that stand out in a vast green desert of pastures and fields. It does feel like home, she thinks… 

Fynboshoek5In the Acknowledgments of Breaking Milk, Dawn writes: Thanks to Alje van Deemter who allowed me to job shadow him on his farm Fynboshoek in the Eastern Cape so that I could detail his cheese-making process and restaurant business – his produce is as delicious as the book portrays.

To discover more about Fynboshoek and the cheese-making process visit the farm’s website and follow their stunning Instagram account.

Stay tuned for details about a launch of Breaking Milk on Fynboshoek in November. Until then, enjoy the novel, learn more about the art of organic cheese making and have some delicious artisan cheese.

Photographs: Fynboshoek Instagram