Dawn Garisch on the genesis of her novel, BREAKING MILK, shortlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award

2021 Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award shortlist

In this novel, I explore aspects of separation and connection. Several mothers I know are estranged from their adult children, and many of us are disconnected from nature, intuition and creativity. I track the nuanced task of knowing when to intervene and when to withhold action in the lives of our own or other women’s children.

However, there are situations where we need to cut – initiation, divorce, surgery. Breaking Milk uses the metaphor of milk and cheese-making to ground these preoccupations during one day in the life of Kate, a geneticist who became a farmer when ethics in her lab were compromised. I job-shadowed a friend to learn about this ancient craft that employs patience and invisible micro-organisms to preserve milk.

I am interested in the idea “you can be right, or you can have relationships”; also how our intelligence has had some disastrous consequences for the natural world on which we depend.

Embedded in these concerns is the role of women in society – what it takes to say no, and how a woman finds her feet after divorce. The books that have informed my inquiry are Disgrace by JM Coetzee, and Accident: A Day’s News by Christa Wolf.

Sunday Times Books

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Extract from Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

Kate Sidley reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch for the Sunday Times: “A small world of deep metaphorical meaning”

Read about the organic cheese farm that inspired the setting for Dawn Garisch’s Breaking Milk: FYNBOSHOEK

Follow the cheese farm on Instagram: FYNBOSHOEK CHEESE FARM

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…

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