The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

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 in 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 ambiguity of this deepening friendship - used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind - collapses in unexpected brutality when secrets and jealousies are exposed.

The Hairdresser of Harare depicts the life of single mother Vimbai, who lives in Harare in Zimbabwe. Vimbai is queen bee at the hair dressing salon where she works and she knows it. One day the most unexpected and unlikely competitor walks in the door - the young man Dumi, a natural talent at styling hair, who charms everybody but Vimbai, who is both jealous and ill-at-ease over the newcomer.

We follow the entire story through Vimbai's eyes and I love that woman. I was very dubious at first, but once I realised how realistically the author depicts her, her situation and her surroundings, I couldn't help but fall for her. She is a strong woman, proud of her independence, but not too proud to not accept good help when offered. The book tells her story through her eyes and we follow her as she grudgingly accepts Dumi's friendship and discovers that so much more is within reach, but also realises that not all is at it appears and is forced to make a decision that can have dire consequences.

As mentioned above the setting is very realistic. The poverty, the corruption, the question of race and culture - it all paints a very clear picture: Zimbabwe is not an easy country to live in. Having recently been to Kenya, I felt I had an even deeper insight in the happenings, having seen just how poor some are and the miserable circumstances they live under - and just how richly others live in stark contrast.

The book is really well written and I strongly recommend others to give it a read. It is much more mature than my usual YA genre, but I truly enjoyed it and wish more knew of this African jewel - it truly deserves much more attention.

196 pages / published in 2010
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011

Many thanks to the author for supplying me with a copy of the book


  1. This sounds absolutely amazing, thanks for the recommendation. It's gone straight on my wish list :)

  2. To be honest, I don't think I've ever read a book that wasn't set in Australia, the US or the UK. How sad is that? This books sounds absolutely magical and I am off to find it right now. Thanks for the great review!


Tilføj en kommentar

Lån løs på eReolen