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Compelling account about the lives of black women in Southern Rhodesia,
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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Initial post: 12 May 2011 11:43:10 BDT
I read this when it was first published in the late 80s and again in 2009, because I found the sequel in the library and felt I needed to reread this to get the most out of it. The sequel is very interesting but even more disturbing, the struggle she faces to get an education etc.
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