Paperback review: The Hairdresser of Harare, By tendai Huchu

 

Vimbai is the star hairdresser at a salon in Harare, until Dumisani, a handsome and skilful new recruit, steals the limelight.

Vimbai's initial jealousy turns to affection after Dumi rents a room with her: they become friends, planning to open a new salon together. But Dumi harbours a secret that threatens their relationship.

Tendai Huchu's excellent novel deftly mixes a touching narrative with sharp social commentary. The construction is deceptively simple, and for long stretches Vimbai's narration is light and comic, recounting the little joys and absurdities of her job, before she gestures arrestingly to the bleak realities of life in Zimbabwe: "The salon really took off in the new year. I figured since the country's average life expectancy was 37, I would concentrate on the young and the beautiful."

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