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on 9 October 2017
An absolutely good read, which you must approach with a probing mind to really get under its skin and draw the themes in the story...I enjoyed it immensely and have just ordered the sequel!
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on 14 September 1999
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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on 26 December 2016
Nervous Conditions is a novel by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga. The semi-autobiographical novel focuses on the story of a Rhodesian family in post-colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s.

Tambu is the main character of the novel. The novel opens up with the news that Tambu’s older brother, Nhamo, had just died. Tambu is not upset about this because Nhamo studied at a missionary school away from his homestead with his uncle Babamukuru and his family. The only thing Tambu desires is to attend school. Babamukuru suggests that Tambu should take Nhamo's place and attend the missionary school by his house. Upon arriving, she soon becomes close to her cousin Nyasha and completely focuses on her studies. There is an exam to test the students and Tambu is offered a scholarship to attend an excellent school. In the new school Tambu is introduced to many cultural changes but remains nervous of the conditions that surround her.

Gender and patriarchal oppression encompass one major theme expressed in the novel. The Rhodesian female characters are oppressed on the basis of gender. Colonialism is another driving force behind many of the plot points, including the fixation on Western education. Additionally, Tambu's trajectory starting with her early education and ending with her acceptance at the nun's school reveals the colonial nature of that scholarship, since the African students were not treated the same as the white Western students. This is an excellent book on post colonial attitudes and Western systems with both examined in equal measure and the strengths and weakness of both highlighted.
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on 5 May 2005
"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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on 30 June 2008
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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on 19 April 2014
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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on 15 August 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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on 3 October 2000
...because who of us doesn't live a nervous condition? Its deep involvment with the meaningful place-and-time of the setting notwithstanding, this novel has all the powerful nuances of a Bildungsroman, facing anguishes and dilemmas (inferiority complex, origin-versus-progress, desire to break out) that are part of our life. And if women from all over the world will find their own experiences of discrimination mirrored in those lived by Tambu and the other female characters, men will meet the manifolded, powerful portrays of male chatacters who are all bound to "carry on the tradition in the normal, unanalytic male fashion"...A "free-your-mind" reading to everyone!
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on 8 April 2014
What is there not to say about this book, I first read this book as a A Level literature student and I have always has a soft spot for this my favourite book of all times.

The fact that a non-Zimbabwean or even a non-African can enjoy this book which is set up in a typical Zimbabwean village is to be given great credit. The plot is clear and consise as a reader you know exactly where you are, the time-line is well placed.

May I say a lot of people criticised Tsitsi for not writing much about the colonial issues and when she did it was mostly negative-I personally think that is the very reason she steered away from that aspect as I'm sure like many who grew up at that time their experience of the colonial times was hard and it is easy for bitterness to translate into your writing. That having been said, nervous conditions is not about colonial times it is about identity, maintaing it, searching for it and losing it. It is also about the unfairness of gender aspects in an African settings and while Tambu and Lucia represent females who find some emancipation through education, Dangarembga skillfully shows that even the well educated ones like Maiguru are still not fully emancipated in a lot of ways because though not living in improverished conditions like Mai Shingai they are both one way or another oppressed by their husbands. Nyasha is a voice of reason not be underestimated and Tambu mentions that "she needed Nyasha" that Nyasha was like "my first love affair, being connected to someone you do not whole heatedly approve of". Yes Nyasha is convulated, spoiled in some ways but a brave spirit seeking independence on gender, religious and race levels. Nyasha was wise beyond her years though she may have been a bit too opinionated and forthcoming which always landed her in trouble. However her characterisation brings a lot of humour to the book.

I agree with Tambu being the better choice of the voice of the book as compared to Nyasha because Tambu is bound to give a less complicated account of events and a lot more African women would be able to connect with her. I must say one above all things I applaud Dangarembga for is that there is no villain in this book, everyone is explained. An example is we get to understand why Banamukuru is who he is and does what he does because of a sense of loyalty and responsibility when he speaks to Jeremiah about the letter he received from him in England while he was studying that all was not well at the homestead and he know it was his responsibility to ensure he worked hard to raise Jeremiah's branch of the family. Despite his bullying nature Babamukuru is benevolent and generous noone can take that away from him. So as readers Tsitsi is able to manipulate any ambivalence we may have towards certain characters to sympathy. I for one continue to vascilate but I give this credit to Dangarembga's great writing skills.

I could write pages about this book as I started reviewing it 14 years ago as a literature student but all I can say is could give this book 10 stars, it's unique selling point is it's aunthenticity.

Well done Tsitsi Dangarembga, I have read the sequel The Book of Not and I eagerly await the conclusion to this trilogy. You were born to write, let no one take that away from you.

I highly recommend this book, please buy it.
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on 16 October 2013
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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