Top critical review
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Big subjects on a tiny stage
on 20 August 2008
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.