When No One is Watching by Linathi Makanda

This wonderful book of poetry took my breath away. I’m extremely grateful to the author for sending me an advanced reading copy. This is my honest review.

African author Linathi Makanda has created a brilliant and immersive experience for the reader.

Suddenly we are plunged into the youthful garden of earthly delights, where love is new and full of wonder. This early bliss is fully embodied: All my skin ever needed was you.

But the lover is a woman, and women’s experiences with love are fraught. The poems travel from the ecstasy of first love, through the paradise of physical delight, to the eventual and somehow inevitable wretchedness of desertion: she knows that no matter what changes she makes, what delights she offers, that he would still forget me.

Finally, the invisibility of the deserted woman is refuted. I see you. Within the embrace of sisterhood, a sustaining solidarity and resilience is found. We are the women whose scents/ smell like freedom and a fresh start.

When No One is Watching

Makanda’s mastery of her style ensures a special accessibility and universality to her poetry. The obvious comparison is to the heartfelt fragments of Sappho’s poems, still powerful after more than 2500 years. This book can be read as a verse novel of female experience, and treasured for its insights.

For lovers of all ages, and anyone who has ever loved, and especially those who have loved and lost, this is a new classic.


When No One is Watching by Linathi Makanda is published by Ensorcellia, an imprint of Odyssey Books, and will be available in late January 2020.

Preorders are available now!

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