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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African feminism: excellent, provocative & uncompromising
I thought this was a brave, original novel, with a clear-sighted, at times fierce, view of the world.
The novel gives the reader a chance to get under the skin of a Zimbabwean woman at the cusp of maturity, on the brink of making her way in the world - against the odds. Given that I'd never been to southern Africa or studied the socio-political history of the period...
Published on 15 Aug 2001 by ruth_hillenbrand@yahoo.com

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big subjects on a tiny stage
The feminist and colonial themes that underpin this novel have their colours tied to the mast. At times, the characters words sound like speeches, delivered from a platform. While in a way this heavy-handedness seems to me to be a weakness of the novel, as a piece of fiction, it does pack quite a punch.

The characters are beautifully drawn and it's they that...
Published on 20 Aug 2008 by daisyrock


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African feminism: excellent, provocative & uncompromising, 15 Aug 2001
I thought this was a brave, original novel, with a clear-sighted, at times fierce, view of the world.
The novel gives the reader a chance to get under the skin of a Zimbabwean woman at the cusp of maturity, on the brink of making her way in the world - against the odds. Given that I'd never been to southern Africa or studied the socio-political history of the period (the 1960s and '70s), it came as a surprise to be so transported into another mindset and way of life.
Tambudzai's relationships with her family, especially her more Westernised cousin, were fascinating.
It's a very intriguing novel, which I'd recommend to anyone. As well as being a compelling read, it really gives you the chance to learn about - and experience vicariously - another time and place.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and excellent read!, 14 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
This book opened a window for me into the lives of black African women who manage to gain an education especially at a time in Southern Rhodesia when to be black was to be bottom of the heap and to be female as well was even less advantageous.
The book tells a story of how an African girl surmounts the apparently insurmountable in a patriarchal society to gain an education. The influences of the other significant women in her life, supportive or otherwise and the ultimate affect of that education on her relationships within an African society.
I went to school with the author although she was a year ahead of me. I was a 'European' colonial from Zambia. Tsitsi stood out at school for her brains and her posh English accent which in Southern Rhodesia at that time was a considered a matter worth commenting on. Given the politics at the time - the early seventies during UDI - within the country as well as within the school I was keen to read her book when I heard she had written one. I was not disappointed. The book offered some thought provoking insights into a world that was closed to us white girls despite the multi-racial nature of the school.
I can highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in women's issues and racial issues.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 5 May 2005
By 
Edwin (Phoenix, Arizona, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
"Nervous conditions" is a book about colonialism and the alienating influence it has on people who lose touch with their roots. It is a dilemma for African children who are seeking education who often find that in adopting the new culture of the colonizers, they often can no longer associate with the traditional ways of their own people. This superbly written book will touch any reader to the core. The writer clearly dissected the negative effects of colonialism and the settler-politics that caused so much strife in Zimbabwe, creating two tragedies in the persons of Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe. This very powerful and touching novel is not only revealing but also opens our minds to more questions, the most powerful of which is the problem of the "colonized mind', a diseases that is still plaguing Africa until today.Another good recommendation is DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, THE OLD MAN AND THE MEDAL
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unseen window to the world of African women, 30 Jun 2008
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
Set in colonial Rhodesia, Tsitsi Dangarembga's novel chronicles the beginning of Tambudzai's new life after her brother's untimely death leaves the way open for her to acquire an education.

Coming from poverty, Tambudzai's shot at gaining a much-desired education relies on chance and the benevolence of her greatly revered, educated uncle, who believes that someone in every branch of his family should have an education to help allieviate the poverty endured by the rest. However, Tambudzai's initial desire to expand her horizons brings its own challenges and contradictions with it, best illustrated through the person of her cousin Nyasha, whose Westernised behaviour is increasingly regarded as unbecoming of a girl.

Although this is at times quite a heavy read, desribing in some detail the lives of rural African women around their often incompetent but ever superior men-folk, and despite the fact that it has a very unsatisfactory ending, this remains a very thoughtful and insightful book. There are so few African novels about women, that it is refreshing to read about often unseen characters. Although you are constantly aware of their second-class status within their families, schools and society at large, this is engaging and quietly gripping and I'm left feelng that there should be more to come of Tambudzai's story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling account about the lives of black women in Southern Rhodesia, 24 Dec 2010
By 
H. M. Holt "souloftherose" (Tring, Herts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
This is the first novel written by Tsitsi Dangarembga and it won The Commonwealth Writers' Prize. According to wikipedia it was the first novel written in English by a black Zimbabwean woman.

The novel is partly auto-biographical in nature. The story is set in Zimbabwe and told from the perspective of a young Shona girl, Tambudzai (Tambu). Tambu lives with her parents on their small homestead but when her only brother dies she is sent to live with her wealthy uncle to become educated so that she can support her family.

Throughout the book, Tambu longs to be educated like her uncle Babamukuru. Babamukuru is the hero of the family, providing the goat and other food for them to eat at Christmas, providing school fees for her brother and taking responsibility for any family decisions which have to be made. However, when Tambu goes to live with her uncle we start to see his flaws, how he struggles to control his own daughter, Nyasha, who grow up in England and is struggling to adjust to the different culture of Zimbabwe, how he works too hard and is often very stressed and how is wife, who is viewed with envy by the other women of the family is actually quite unhappy and frustrated.

Tambu's father is a lazy man who will say the right thing in front of her uncle but do nothing about it when her uncle is absent. Her mother has become ground down with weariness following the death of her brother and all the work she does on the farm. Tambu's father appears to do nothing.

Nyasha, Tambu's cousin, struggles to adapt to Zimbabwean Shona culture. She has seen a different way of living in England and doesn't see why she should revert back to the traditional Shona ways of (to her) mindless obedience to her father.

Maiguru, Tambu's aunt, studied for a higher degree in England. But now she is back in Zimbabwe, she is expected to take care of all the cooking and cleaning at family gatherings.

And Tambu copes by outwardly being diligent and respectful to her uncle, the perfect young lady.

In many ways, this book was an uncomfortable read because I felt very strongly the unfairness of the situations the women in the novel found themselves in. It also felt like the book ends very suddenly. There is a sequel which I really want to read to find out what happens.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb exploration of culture clashes in Africa, 19 July 2009
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
This book is superb. It tells the story of Tambudzai, a Zimbabwean girl from a poor rural family whose determination and some luck enable her to 'better herself' with an education thanks to her rich uncle. However, Tambudzai discovers that 'Englishness' comes at a terrible price.

Tambudzai is an immediately likeable narrator and the story is enjoyable and engaging to read from the first page. It is full of witty and accurate observations, realistic characters, some great humour, and also some very painful parts. I found it hard to put down, even though it is not an especially dramatic story.

Nervous Conditions has strong themes of feminism and colonialism, and the changing role of women in African society. The contrast between Tambudzai's poverty stricken parents and her Western-educated aunt and uncle, and the conflict that arises in Tambudzai as she tries to find a path between the two, is the driving force of the novel. But despite the seriousness of it's themes, there is a lot to like about this story and plenty of observational humour.

The book offers no easy answers and does a great job of showing the good and bad points of both traditional African and a Westernised way of life. Tambudzai is contrasted with her cousin Nyasha, who finds herself unable to fit in to either her traditional way of life or the 'developed' society of the West.

There's a good twist and the ending is unexpected and heartbreaking, as well as inconclusive enough to leave you desperate for a sequel. This is certainly the best book I've read this year. Fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (Half of A Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus) will enjoy this book as the two authors have a similar style. If you haven't read either, do try them - I can't imagine you'll be disappointed.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big subjects on a tiny stage, 20 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
The feminist and colonial themes that underpin this novel have their colours tied to the mast. At times, the characters words sound like speeches, delivered from a platform. While in a way this heavy-handedness seems to me to be a weakness of the novel, as a piece of fiction, it does pack quite a punch.

The characters are beautifully drawn and it's they that keep you turning the pages, because there is little going on in terms of a narrative plotline. From time to time, things move rather too slowly - like when our narrator, Tambu, first arrives at the mission school - but in the main, the gentle unfolding of the plot works because it is populated by such 3-dimensional characters. Although everyone is in some way flawed, the author gives them all their own voice, allowing them the opportunity to explain themselves, their mindset and their actions. Though choosing not to engage with the issue of 1960s Rhodesian apartheid, the author does take a close up look at the impact of race and colonisation at a family level, and indeed at a personal level. This is not the sweeping political tale that a male writer might have told, but racism and sexism on a micro level, shaping and directing the lives of a handful of women and girls.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did it take me so long to find this book?, 19 April 2014
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
A coming-of-age, but in such a very special age. Dangarembga tackles post-colonial attitudes and sexual politics in patriarchal Zimbabwe, set against a backdrop of rural, brutal poverty.

Tambu’s not stupid. She can see the only escape from a life of bearing water, babies and burdens of injustice must be education. Look at Uncle Babamukuru, who went to England and is now running a mission school. She can’t attend. She’s a girl. An intelligent, enterprising, ferocious girl.

Her determination bears fruit, or mealies, and her future is wide open. Babamukuru offers an opportunity and Tambu takes it. Despite her nerves, and her confused relationship with her cousin, Nyasha.

This is an extraordinary book, with a powerful voice and distinct perspective. All the scents, sounds, textures, tastes, images and social structures are not presented as an insight to a voyeur, but as an immersion into another life, another way of thinking. The reader is placed within the normality of a small African village, observing and experiencing deception, power, corruption, generosity, loyalty and how the hangover of colonialism is open to interpretation.

You’ll like this if you enjoyed: Wild Swans, Things Fall Apart, A Thousand Splendid Suns

Avoid if you dislike: Realities of rural African life, injustice, hard questions

Ideal accompaniments: Sweet potatoes with chilli and ginger, mango juice and Thomas Mapfumo’s Nidwe Chete.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for my daughter, 20 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
I got this for my daughter she needed it for school she is very happy with it and is enjoying she dose give it the thumbs up
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and brilliant, 16 Oct 2013
This review is from: Nervous Conditions (Paperback)
I wasn't expecting to like this novel, but I couldn't put it down. The novel's narrator, Tambudzai, is a young black girl living in Southern Rhodesia, or modern day Zimbabwe, who is restricted by both her race and gender. Many issues are dealt with in the novel, gender, race, education, family and identity are the ones that come to mind.

Despite living in vastly different circumstances to the narrator, it is easy to identify with her as the novel portrays that we are all human beings. I recommend this novel, both as a postcolonial text and one for enjoyment
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Nervous Conditions
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Paperback - 1 Oct 2004)
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