Book Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
April 13, 2012 21 Comments
The 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