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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end throws much light on earlier parts of the novel
The story is told by Sisi Vimbai, a single mother, who is the leading stylist in a Harare hairdressing saloon until the handsome Dumisane Ncubi turns up who is an even better stylist than she is, and whom the saloon's owner appoints as the saloon's manager. Sisi is mortified; but Dumi and Vimbai has a spare room. Dumi moves in, and in the course of time, he and she...
Published 16 months ago by Ralph Blumenau

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine but no Finesse
Huchu's novel "The Hairdresser of Harare" is an enjoyable but slight read - I read it in a day. As its title suggests, it's set in contemporary Zimbabwe in a local salon. Narrated by 26-year-old protagonist, Vimbai, this is ostensibly a novel about the day-to-day life of a hairdresser trying to keep her head above water, especially once her position as top stylish is...
Published 13 months ago by Sofia


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end throws much light on earlier parts of the novel, 30 April 2013
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hairdresser of Harare (Kindle Edition)
The story is told by Sisi Vimbai, a single mother, who is the leading stylist in a Harare hairdressing saloon until the handsome Dumisane Ncubi turns up who is an even better stylist than she is, and whom the saloon's owner appoints as the saloon's manager. Sisi is mortified; but Dumi and Vimbai has a spare room. Dumi moves in, and in the course of time, he and she become "an item", and Sisi's little daughter Chiwoniso also becomes very fond of "Uncle Dumi". Dumi's wealthy parents and siblings treat Vimbai as a member of the family, though she is a single mother and from a lower social class than they are. All this is told in a leisurely manner and in pleasant and simple prose in the first two-thirds of the book.

The first two sentence of the novel read, "I knew there was something not quite right with Dumi the very first time I ever laid eyes on him, The problem was, I just couldn't tell what it was." It is only in the last third of the book that Sisi discovers what was "not quite right" with him. It devastates her, and her reactions have terrible consequences.

This central story is set against the background of life in Zimbabwe under Mugabe: terrible shortages for all except the people at the top; corruption; an inflation which means that "bricks" of banknotes are needed to pay for purchases; the lawless "veterans" who can be used by the powerful to beat up their opponents; the terrible risks run by homosexuals in that society.

An easy and in the end a very powerful read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really nice read about a hairdresser in Zimbabwe, 13 April 2012
By 
JudithAnn (Houten, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `All the prejudices of a divided Zimbabwe, with some of the lighter moments left in', 17 Jun 2012
In his debut novel, Tendai Huchu has produced a cleverly crafted, many faceted, multi-layered story, rich in storyline detail and character assessment, which highlights the political and social montage of a post-apartheid Zimbabwean population trying its hardest to survive the rule of a regime which relies on fear and oppression to maintain its control.

Rich with character and humor, `The Hairdressser Of Harare', is at once a gripping excursion through Zimbabwe's landscapes and the poignant and often sad story of two people drawn together by mutual rejection from their respective families, illustrating only too vividly that wealth and position play no advantage in the human morality stakes, only in its ability to mask the truth and maintain a facade.

When we first meet Vimbai, she is a young woman who has plenty of history. Coming from an impoverished background, naive and beguiled by the bright lights, when she is raped and left pregnant by a philandering, smooth-talking rogue, she is disowned by her parents, for bringing shame on the family and is left to fend for herself and her child. She guards her daughter jealously, vowing to afford her every opportunity in life to better herself and with her innate sense of pride and determination to improve their quality of life, she takes full advantage of every opportunity afforded to her. From time to time we see this desire to rise up the social scale, overtake her thinking and start to question her morality. However, as her character grows and matures during the course of the several months we get to know her, we see her learn to temper her selfishness and impetuosity with compassion and understanding, as she defies the rules of convention to help the friend who has changed her life forever, whilst potentially putting her own life in danger. She also learns the valuable lesson that she has never been totally abandoned by her siblings, who willingly place themselves in danger to help guide her on the right path in dealing with her moral dilemma.

Dumi, is a young man with a secret which could cost him his life at any point in time. He is from a wealthy and influential `party' family, supremely confident in himself and his abilities, brash ... BUT ... deep down, a coward. When he is disowned by his family, who have their suspicions about his secret life, Dumi is quick to survive and prosper by his own wit and talent, never once taking into account the feelings and circumstances of the people he is walking over to achieve this. He clearly has some affection for Vimbai, however he is basically using her as a cover story, in his bid to ingratiate himself back into his parents lives. It isn't that he particularly craves their acceptance, as he is like Vimbai in that he already has the love and acceptance of his sibling, however he does desire the large allowance they once afforded him and the trappings of their wealth and influential position. He places Vimbai in an almost impossible position, making promises which he knows that he will ultimately be unable to fulfill, then when the going gets tough and his secret threatens their very lives, he leaves her to discover the truth for herself, rather than being a man about things and telling her himself.

Reconciliation between the young couple, comes swiftly, but at a price which will leave them both at a turning point in their lives. Decisions have to be made and actioned quickly and both ultimately need to assess what is most important to them.

The secondary characters all either love to be liked, or like to be hated and feared, but all are richly described and fulfill distinct and important roles in the overall story of the two main protagonists.

The whole experience of reading the excellent social commentary which is, `The Hairdresser Of Harare', has shown me a portrait of a country, ruled by a repressive and cruel regime, where many of its people live in constant fear of the authorities and to speak out or go against the `norm' means certain retribution. It also only serves to highlight the huge gap between the have's and the have not's and the utter brutality dealt out to those who dare to challenge the prescribed moral and social codes of society, by both the authorities and one's own social peers.

This unforgiving landscape does also produce some lighter, humorous interludes and exchanges, from a populace which despite everything, is trying desperately hard to keep cheerful and make the best of their everyday lives, adding a great tenderness and poignancy to the story.

There is perhaps one area of the story which I wish had been more fully expanded upon, and that is the ending itself. Whilst I can fully appreciate the way that Dumi's exit was played out and led to a natural closure for his character, I found my mind full of questions about the fate of Vimbai and what the future might hold for her.

Tendai, with his smooth writing style, authentic and genuine characters has undoubtedly produced a work of contemporary fiction entwined with some subtle humour and innuendo, but scratch the surface and I see a forceful and strong piece of political and social satire.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating portrait of ordinary lives in Zimbabwe, 26 July 2013
This review is from: The Hairdresser of Harare (Kindle Edition)
This is a book with an excellent pace - you just race through as the story whirls around in a riot of colour. The best part is how it shows ordinary people, trying to make their way in a country where money is almost defunct due to inflation. The plot revolves around a hairdressing salon, which is definitely unusual for a novel about Zimbabwe! The main character, Vimbai, is the star of the salon until Dumisani turns up and starts making waves. She is wonderfully portrayed, a soul with where conscience and self interest are in constant struggle. Refreshingly ordinary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, 26 July 2013
I thought this was a charming book. It was easy to read and a page-turner, mixing serious topics with humour. I'll be interested in seeing if there are any other books by this author. I'd highly recommend reading it!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine but no Finesse, 23 July 2013
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
Huchu's novel "The Hairdresser of Harare" is an enjoyable but slight read - I read it in a day. As its title suggests, it's set in contemporary Zimbabwe in a local salon. Narrated by 26-year-old protagonist, Vimbai, this is ostensibly a novel about the day-to-day life of a hairdresser trying to keep her head above water, especially once her position as top stylish is challenged by the arrival of a new hairdresser.

However, it's also a novel about gender politics and politics in general; it wants to look at the position of women in Zimbabwean society, especially the status and vulnerabilities of single women in addition to considering cultural prejudices about both men and women. The novel also highlights power and corruption under Mugabe and is at its most impressive when depicting the everyday shortages and dangers of living in modern Zimbabwe or describing the huge disparity between the nation's rich and poor.

"The Hairdresser of Harare" is an enjoyable read; the plot trips along briskly, the characters are engaging enough, but the major plot twist was obvious to me from almost the second chapter which is always disappointing. Additionally, Huchu's habit of ending chapters or paragraphs with little phrases signposting future plot developments ("Little did I know....") did become progressively more annoying as a device. Had the writing been a little less clumsy and a bit more left to the imagination this could have been a much better book. However as it stands, it's to my mind a good, quick summer-holiday read but nothing more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful......, 24 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Hairdresser of Harare (Kindle Edition)
beautifully written, funny sharp and witty moments, with a touch of politics. Really enjoyed the book, it clearly demonstrates the issues facing people's choices and differences and the impact that it has on their lives. It's clear this bigotry is still being faced today not just in Zimbabwe but in many countries across the world.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Def a to read, 1 Sep 2013
I loved it
In a simple way touched many rough dilemmas of society
Would love to find a family like she has
Beautiful book
Could not put it down
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 25 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Hairdresser of Harare (Kindle Edition)
A very very well written boom that draws you in from the first page, I can't wait to read more from the author!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good read, 23 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Hairdresser of Harare (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this and the insight of an independant Zimbabwe. Well written and an easy read. Would read this author again.
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