The Hairdresser of Harare is set in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Vimbai is the best hairdresser, or so she thinks. She is the “queen b” at Mrs Khumalo’s hair salon and makes certain that everyone knows it. It seems like all is going well for her with her cosy house, house help and spirited daughter but like everything in life, nothing is as it seems. When Dumisanmi Ncube shows up at Madam K’s saloon, her life is in for a roller coaster ride. Suspense dipped in political satires and some false sense of romance with a splash of African magic melodrama made this book hard to put down.
Book title: The Hairdresser of Harere
Author: Tendai Huchu
Publisher: Weaver Press, Zimbabwe (2010)
Genre: Realist fiction
Vimbai seems very confident on the outside, she seems to be doing really well as a hairdresser, a mother and a friend. Unbeknownst to most people, her life isn’t picture perfect. She isn’t on talking terms with her family because of her unwillingness to hand over her share of her brother’s will. She is also very lonely and this paves the way for Dumi to have a firm foothold in her life. He walks to Mrs Khumalo’s shop one day and makes such an impression that she couldn’t resist the increased profit margin due to his fresh sense of style, she saw Zimbabwean dollars.
With nowhere to stay, he asks Vimbai’s permission to be her tenant and she agrees despite her antagonism, this seemed to be the answers to her financial situation and a most welcome offer given the state of the country’s economy.
What was supposed to be a landlord-tenant situation became a great friendship, at least to Dumisanmi, but was much more to Vimbai. Dunisanmi doesn’t make things better when he introduces her to his family and she becomes a second sister to his younger sister, Michelle. Dunisanmi is the perfect man and Vimbai can tell that this is someone she can build a life with, but wonders why he hasn’t made love to her after living together for as long as they have. The whole situation goes out of control when Vimbai, in her search for answers, discovers Dumisanmi’s diary.
What I love about the book
The Suspense. The book literally doesn’t begin till nearly the very end. I didn’t find any answers to questions like, Where did Dumisanmi come from? Why wasn’t he fucking Vimbai? Is it possible that such a man could exist? Was that how Zimbabwe really was? Was what happened to Trina legal? until the end of the book which makes it hard to put down.
The drama. Each chapter ends with a preliminary statement for the next. Since Vimbai is the narrator, we are uninvited guests in her soliloquy. I wish there was a narrative from Dumisanmi ‘s character but I believe it all plays out in the end when she reads the diary. Yep! A juicy in-depth look at the secret life of our man candy.
Zimbabwe. Being Nigerian and confined to this country since birth, I’ve never known much about Zimbabwe than the ruler. This book opened my eyes to the history of Great Zimbabwe, the alarming state of the country’s economy, the traditional handshake, the corrupt liberators and the disadvantaged people. If you haven’t read it, what do you hope to learn from the book? If you have, what did you learn?
What I didn’t like
The language. It seems that Tendai expects me to learn Zimbabwean. I doubt that he knows that I – as well as some of you – have a hard ear for languages, mine included, but I hope he sees this and decides to have mercy on his readers by transcribing next time. I secretly feel that maybe it’s some secret code meant for those in his motherland.
The end. The book had such a rushed and flat ending. It was finished; leaving no loopholes or extra yearnings for more, the journey ended in that very unbefitting way. We didn’t get to see any other narrative per say and this just made the book feel stale. After the surprise, it went downhill.
I discovered that this was a speech he made at every family gathering. It omitted the numerous palms he’d greased along the way to get himself lucrative government contracts. But it did nothing to diminish the fact that he was a self-made man who had risen from being a barefooted villager to one of the wealthiest men in the country.
This just hit it close to home. I personally find success stories such a bore, the struggle, the triumph, it’s all bull to me.
Definitely Mrs Khumalo. She is a true businesswoman who’s romance with her business translate into her relationships with her workers. Tendai really depicts how the love of money makes Mrs Khumalo a slave to Dumi. It’s just too funny observing how clueless she is to the mind games he plays with her.
Should you read this?
Yes. I give it a 3 out of 5 star rating, meaning its readable and enjoyable.
About the Author
Tendai Huchu is a Zimbabwean author and a podiatrist by profession who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has fancy dreadlocks and the second book to his name titled “The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician”. He seems to have a thing for simple but long titles for his books. The Hairdresser of Harere is his first book and has been translated to German, French, Italian and Spanish. You can learn more about him in his interview with the Guardian Nigeria
here and on his website at http://www.tendaihuchu.com
Feedback and book recommendations in the comment section below would be most appreciated.
Bio: Chinazamekpere Eziaghighala is a 5th year medical student at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. When she isn’t trying to save lives, she writes reviews for her blog Lieberean (www.lieberean.wordpress.com) and also creates content for The Nigerian Child Initiative, an NGO focused on child health and education. She could survive a desert if she had enough water and a bible.