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on 19 July 2017
Couldn't really connect with the characters and often felt i was missing some crucial information. The Zimbabwean background was interesting, but some of the slang / vocabulary was not easy to understand. Quite an interesting story though.
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on 26 March 2013
I found the book very enjoyable but felt very frustrated by the lead characters ability to just take it on the chin, as though she wasn't worth any more .
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on 5 July 2010
I found this a difficult book to review. Set in the newly-formed Zimbabwe, it is essentially a love story between a 'coloured' Zimbabwe girl and a white 'Rhodie'. Bound by a tragedy in their youth, we follow their relationship in the burgeoning Zimbabwe with all its hopes, then descent into brutality, prejudice and corruption.

I found the book very hard to get into and there were times at the beginning when I really didn't think I could carry on with it. There was so much history, politics and tribal allegiances which were difficult to sort out and I found the Zimbabwean slang very difficult. A glossary would have helped. Perhaps if I had known more about the internal politics and various factions I might have found it easier.

Having said that, from page 150 I became engossed in the story and found the main characters very believable. So 3 stars for the first part, and 5 for the second, so will settle for 4!
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on 3 January 2011
This is one of those books that actually add something to your life and thinking, especially if, like me, you start reading it with nothing more than a vague idea of where Zimbabwe is. The more I read, the more I found literally absorbed in a world that, despite being so far from mine, never appeared so close. This book is been a reading and a cultural experience, who brought me through some of the most significant moments in recent Zimbabwean history with such a great poignancy it's not easy to explain. A book captivating and entertaining, but at the same time deep and meaningful, written in such a moving plain and straightforward language which can't possibly miss your soul. True, at the beginning you might find slightly confused in front of political facts you don't know anything about, but there is nothing that a quick look at wikipedia can't help sorting out. And as far as the slang words are concerned, they're fully part of the exotic spell this book will cast on you...Ian's lingo is absolutely irresistible!
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on 3 January 2011
I always hate being the voice of dissent, and I do agree with previous reviewers that this is a very accomplished novel, but it just didn't engage or move me.
My partner is Zimbabwean, so I expected to be engrossed, and the political backdrop is interesting, but I didn't believe in the characters and found them generally cold and distant.
It reminded me of Linda Grant's novel 'When I lived in Modern Times' actually - a novel which portrayed beautifully the terrible political situation in Israel- but which just didn't work for me on a human level.
So, I wouldn't tell you not to buy it - many others have clearly had a very different experience - but I can only tell you I struggled to make myself care and finish it.
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2010
This is an accomplished, convincing and highly readable debut novel. In a crowded market this book stands out both for its unusual setting - Zimbabwe in the years following independence - and for its sure handling, a keenly observed story by a writer who clearly knows the world she describes and who is obviously passionate about all her characters.

Lindiwe and Ian are the protagonists, neighbouring teenagers who inhabit very different worlds, she a black Zimbabwean, he a 'Rhodie' with the attitudes of a ruling elite. A terrible event brings them to each other's attention, and through the years their relationship develops from immature curiosity to - well you'll just have to read it to find out exactly what. Suffice to say each has a profound effect on the other as their paths cross and veer apart while their country goes through increasingly troubled times.

This is described as a love story in promotion and it's certainly that. However I felt it was so much more and this description didn't do the book full justice. It's about love, yes, but love in a world undergoing wider turmoil as the Mugabe government, widely approved initially as a model of African democracy, descends into a regime of tribalism, paranoia and fear. However while the political situation touches the worlds of these characters it's not central, just as in most people's lives; this is certainly a novel about people and not politics.

It's to Sabatini's immense credit that she breathes life into all her characters, with even comparatively minor figures fully rounded and believable. Lindiwe's family are convincingly drawn, with subtlety and persuasive detail. At a distance of thousands of miles and almost three decades it seemed astonishing to me that teenage girls were pinning posters of Duran Duran on their walls in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia (its official post independence name) just as in Europe, but I'm told they were. The mix of values, of clashing cultures, the search for personal happiness in a new nation racked by corruption, racism and the 'slim disease', all these themes surround and inhabit Lindiwe's and Ian's troubled yet hopeful world and help to make 'The Boy Next Door' an essential read.
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on 30 May 2010
What I love about reading is that you can pick up a book you've never heard of, full of a place and time you know nothing about and by the end of it have a real feel for the people and their lives.
A small mystery , an unlikely seemingly impossible relationship and real characters set amid the turmoil of post-war Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sets the scene for a very memorable book. This book was 'lekker'!!
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on 24 July 2012
I found this book in a holiday home in Croatia and didn't have anything else to read but I think I stumbled on a near gem. I liked the characters and found them believable and, like the other reviewers, found the depiction of Zimbabwe's slide into chaos fascinating and chilling. My reservations were with some of the plotting. Maybe I read it too quickly but I thought the 'murder mystery' element of it was ultimately unsatisfying and maybe even superfluous. The sudden appearance of David felt a bit clunky too although it was more than made up for by the rest of his story. I would definitely recommend this book, and perhaps I should re read some parts of it again too.
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on 8 February 2012
The romance in this book was sweet, and I loved it for that. It pulled at me and evoked emotions within. I agree with the one reviewer that found it hard to get into the book. I experienced the same thing. I read that particular review before I bought the book and dismissed it, i mean how hard could it get?? It was quite hard and this has nothing to do with the author, it was more of the fact I come from a different background and the images, words, slangs, ideas etc used were hard to grasp. I am Nigerian so I assumed being African it would be easier, nt so much. I got the basic theme and did somewhat enjoy it. I do know if I had grasped the culture of the book it would have been beyond amazing!!! It was powerful to make me feel the longing it did.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2015
This clever and insightful novel manages to tell the story of a whole country, whilst remaining at its heart a simple tale of two young people growing up, falling in love, and finding their way in the world. In this case, 'the world' is that of post-independence Zimbabwe, and the two young lovers have the added hurdle of being from different races. Lindiwe is the narrator - an intelligent black woman with a bright future. Her white neighbour meanwhile has a troubled background and seemingly few prospects. They find common ground and become friends, but such a friendship is not an easy thing in the increasing racial tensions following independence.

The novel spans several decades, with breaks in between, all of which are clearly marked i.e. not confusing. The story is told chronologically, which is my preference in a story with a long time span. There are a couple of surprises along the way. Over the course of the story, we see Zimbabwe slowly slide into chaos, with inflation and brutal oppression on the rise. But at the same time we see the fortunes of our two main characters wax and wane and intertwine.

It is always easy to read and absorbing, and despite not being a thriller it is quite hard to put down. This reflects how deeply interested I was in the characters. Along the way, the reader finds themselves thinking about a lot of big issues - colonialism, modern African politics, racial inequality (in both directions), mixed race relationships, HIV, the class system, and the personal challenges of any romantic relationship. And yet it never lectures or becomes dull, most of the discussion of these topics is done through dialogue and so it doesn't ever feel like a 'heavy' read. I did find it very thought provoking and one of those stories I kept thinking about after I'd finished reading.

Lindiwe is a really likeable character and a good narrator. Ian is also likeable although you grow to like him more gradually, and he is a more complex and intriguing character. There are some decent supporting characters, particularly Lindi's friend Bridgette. The themes of struggling to fit into society are pretty universal, and it is easy to identify with the emotions of the characters. I would very happily read a sequel. Certainly I'd say this is must-read for anyone interested in Africa, its politics, or post-colonial challenges. But really the appeal is much wider and I think anyone who enjoys novels with a good plot and characters would find this enjoyable.
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