Book Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai HuchuThe story in this book takes place in Zimbabwe, a country that I don’t know much about at all. And the book has a beautiful cover! Call me a little shallow, but for me, those were two good reasons to read this book.

And I loved it. It’s very fluently written, a story that doesn’t require any particular knowledge about the country (except that it’s placed against the social unrest of white farmers being chased off their lands and high inflation).

The Hairdresser of Harare: What it is about

From the back cover: “Vimbai is a hairdresser, the best in Mrs Khumalo’s salon, and she knows she is the queen on whom they all depend. Her situation is reversed when the good looking smooth talking Dumisani joins them. However, his charm and desire to please slowly erode Vimbai’s rancour and when he needs somewhere to live, Vimbai becomes his landlady.

So, when Dumisani needs someone to accompany him to his brother’s wedding to help smooth over a family upset, Vimbai obliges. Startled to find that this smart hairdresser is the scion of one of the wealthiest families of Harare, she is equally surprised by the warmth of their welcome; and it is their subsequent generosity which appears to foster the relationship between the two young people.”

The Hairdresser of Harare: What I thought

This was a really nice read! The writing is very fluent and I was drawn into the story immediately.

Vimbai is an ordinary woman struggling with work and her family (a daughter, no husband, but she has a home help). There are problems with electricity, safety on the streets, etc. Zimbabwe’s currency devaluates while you wait and a white customer in the salon may be evicted by armed war vets.

Altogether not an easy time for Vimbai. She’s lucky to have a job, though, as there is 90% unemployment. When Dumisani comes to work at the salon, Vimbai feels threatened as he takes her position as best hairdresser in the salon. But she can’t help liking him and she becomes more and more involved in his life and his family.

I very much liked the setting and learned some new things about Zimbabwe. The story didn’t explain everything about the country, neither was it hard to follow if you don’t know much about the country. So, a book that is both interesting for people that know the country, and those who don’t.

Vimbai was rather shocked when she finds out a secret about Dumisani. That sounded very realistic. She did however get over the shock a bit too quickly to my liking, a slower progression from absolute shock to acceptance would have been better, I think. But I loved how Vimbai’s brother’s philosophy club helped her out. Brilliant!

A really nice read that I can recommend to anyone who would like to read a story about a country they don’t know much about.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I got this book: for review from the author

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 192

First published: 2010

Genre: contemporary fiction

About Judith
I'm owner and editor at and We edit books and articles for independent writers.

21 Responses to Book Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

  1. heavenali says:

    I like the sound of this – sounds like quite a cosy type read but with some serious issues behind it – not unlike Alexander McCall Smith.

  2. Does look interesting…, Judith. If I come across it in a bookstore, I will have to buy it.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, don’t you just love the cover? I think it’s a beauty. No idea whether the book is available in bookshops. It’s on amazon, but otherwise, I don’t know.

  3. Tien says:

    There’s nothing wrong about beautiful covers – It is a weakeness of mine, I cannot resist gorgeous covers!! But I also love reading books set in countries I don’t know much of, so I totally get your reasons for choosing to read this book. It also definitely sounds interesting 🙂

  4. bibliosue says:

    I’m definitely putting this on my to-read list. I don’t read a lot of novels set in Africa, so I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  5. I may be shallow too but I love Joey HiFi covers and have started collecting them. So far the books inside have been good too!

  6. Sounds good to me too and love the cover, definitely important.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Claire. So you also put a lot of importance on the cover, when choosing a book.

      • If its an author I know it has less influence, but if I am on the browse and open to something completley new and unknown, its one of the factors because its part of the feeling good about finding a good book experience.

  7. This sounds kind of fantastic! Love that cover and love your review. One for me to keep an eye out for.

  8. Amy says:

    I like the cover of this book, too and am often swayed to choose a book by a good cover! I haven’t read many books set in Zimbabwe but I also like the sound of this story, simple and intriguing with interesting characters and a little intrigue. Thank you for this great review. I love discovering books through bloggers that I probably wouldn’t know about otherwise. pulling out my wishlist…..

    • Leeswammes says:

      Aimala, my wishlist is getting longer and longer by reading other book review blogs. But hey, that’s great, isn’t it? Hope you’ll get round to reading this book.

  9. Athira says:

    So glad that you enjoyed this! I had pretty much the same reaction as you did.

  10. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    Sounds really interesting Judith, great review!

  11. Amna says:

    what love to read it…..Interesting about Harare

  12. Pingback: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu « Rash Elvis Chants

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