Thursday, March 2, 2017

A bookish journey to Zimbabwe...

Title & Author:  The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
First line:  I knew there was something not quite right about Dumi the very first time I ever laid eyes on him.

Summary:  Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Harare and all her customers know it. Then handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani comes along and dethrones her. "To be dispensable is a woman's worst nightmare and I was beginning to live it."  Despite her jealousy, Vimbai can't help liking Dumi. She even offers to rent him a room in her house. And for awhile, she thinks their friendship might become something more, until she discovers the secret he's been keeping. "I shall regret the next thing I did for as long as I live."

My thoughts:  What I loved about this novel is how Huchu so deftly intertwines Vimbai's story with that of Zimbabwe's. Not only do you get to know these unique characters, but you get a taste of Zimbabwe, too--its language, customs, culture, problems and political woes. I thought it was interesting how so many of the characters in this novel were still influenced by the English even though they'd won their independence from Britain years earlier. Huchu doesn't dwell on the past, but the past influences these characters' lives in many ways.  There isn't a happy ending for anyone in this book, but it is so worth reading. Vimbai and Dumisani are two characters who will stay with me for quite some time.


Title & Author:  The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers
First line:  I was five thousand miles away, drunk and happily unaware at a friend's birthday party in Berlin, when I learned that the first white farmer had been murdered.

Summary & thoughts:  This well-written memoir explores the other side of Zimbabwe's complicated history--that of the white farmers. Rogers focuses on two of them: his stubbornly independent and resilient parents. Born in Africa, they weathered Zimbabwe's War of Independence, raised their children, built up a successful tourist lodge in the hills above Mutare, only to see it all threatened by Robert Mugabe's second land grab in the early 2000s.  Rogers meets former soldiers and young guerillas, black farmers, members of the MDC party campaigning against Mugabe, old friends, and of course, other white farmers who have lost their homes and farms and are just struggling to survive.  What comes through most of all in this humorous yet poignant memoir is how much all of these people love their homeland.
"...my first love is Zimbabwe. This is where my heart is, this is where my blood is, this is where my roots are, this is where my children were born. My Zimbabwe..."
 This is an incredible story, and reading it right after reading The Hairdresser of Harare made it even more meaningful. Both of these books are amazing, and read together offer quite a picture of this complicated land.

Happy Reading!

14 comments:

  1. I love that you wrote this post! I'm jotting down these titles as soon as I finish typing this :) I have a friend, Ndana, who is from Harare and I always love learning about her country. So glad you posted about these books.

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    1. How cool is that. It's bookish serendipity at its best! :) I thought both of these book were amazing and I hope you get a chance to read them and that you like them, too.

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  2. Both of these sound interesting and I love that you read them together. Was that planned or fate?

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    1. A little of both. I was hoping to read something set in Zimbabwe and it just happened that both of these books were available at my library on the day that I was there. And it worked out perfectly. :)

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  3. What a great pairing of books. Both sound interesting and informative!

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    1. If you ever get a yen to read a book or two set in Zimbabwe these are really good! :)

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  4. Both sound interesting, Lark. The first book sounds appealing to me. :)

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    1. The Hairdresser of Harare is definitely worth reading. And since it's not a very long book it's easy to fit in. :)

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  5. What a fun way to get to know another place a little bit! I'm going to have to see if my library has The Hairdresser of Harare.

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    1. I hope it does. It's a good read.

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  6. I would like to try The Hairdresser of Harare. If you are looking for more fictional books set in Zimbabwe, I read The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah last year which was pretty good.

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    1. Ooh, thanks! I wouldn't mind reading another good book set in Zimbabwe. :)

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  7. These both sound interesting. I don't think I've ever read a book about Zimbabwe or set there. Time to expand my literary horizons, methinks!

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    1. That's what I thought, too; I'd like to read more widely this year especially more books set in other countries. It's fun, and I learn a lot, too. Which is always a good thing. :)

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