Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu

The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu
First published in Zimbabwe by Weaver Press in 2010. Freight Books edition published in 2013.

One of my WorldReads from Zimbabwe

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hairdresser of Harare is a stylish, funny and sophisticated first-hand account of life today in Zimbabwe's capital city, confounding stereotypes and challenging injustice with equal fearlessness. This is an upbeat, charming, but at times heart-breaking, story of friendship, prejudice and forgiveness from the heart of contemporary Africa.

Vimbai is the star hairdresser of her salon, the smartest in Harare, Zimbabwe, until the enigmatic Dumisani appears. Losing many of her best customers to this good-looking, smooth-talking young man, Vimbai fears for her job, vital if she's to provide for her young child. But in a remarkable reversal the two become allies, Dumi renting a room from Vimbai, then inviting her to a family wedding, where to her surprise, he introduces her to his rich parents as his 'girlfriend'. Soon they are running their own Harare salon, attracting the wealthiest and most powerful clients in the city. But disaster is near, as Vimbai soon uncovers Dumi's secret, a discovery that will result in brutality and tragedy, testing their relationship to the very limit.

I had seen The Hairdresser Of Harare positively reviewed on other book blogs so jumped at the chance to purchase my own copy when the ebook was discounted recently on Amazon. It's a fairly light-hearted story - although with violent episodes towards the end - and I thought Huchu portrayed modern day Zimbabwe in a lively and entertaining way. I liked his characters, all of whom felt real although perhaps slightly larger than life, and the potentially bitchy atmosphere of the hair salon was great fun. Vimbai is a deceptively complex woman. Initially I thought her rather vain and shallow, but as I discovered more about her life and her choices I found myself really rooting for her to succeed.

Huchu describes Harare in a way that made the city appeal to me, but he doesn't shy away from its negative aspects. I was shocked by the aggressive male behaviour that women endure daily - unwanted and uninvited chat-ups repeatedly being followed with abusive language when refused or ignored. Ingrained cultural attitudes towards homosexuality were also difficult for me to accept. Dumi's 'secret' is telegraphed from fairly early on in the novel so I wasn't surprised by the revelation - certainly not as much as Vimbai is! - and her immediate response was disappointing although I suppose understandable given her lack of relevant knowledge.

Having very much enjoyed reading most of The Hairdresser Of Harare, I felt the last quarter was too rushed which did spoil the book a bit for me, but I look forward to reading more Tendai Huchu novels in the future.

Etsy Find!
by New York Charm Sister in
New York, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Tendai Huchu / LGBT fiction / Books from Zimbabwe


  1. Sounds interesting, but the rushed ending would put me off.

    1. I thought it needed another three or four chapters to wrap up satisfyingly.