Life in Zimbabwe

2010-10-06 00:00

VIMBAI is one of Harare’s top hairdressers: she has worked out that her clients will be happy if she can make them leave the salon feeling like white women. However, the only white woman she knows is Trina, who makes ends meet once her farm has been taken over by a cabinet minister, by supplying the products the salon needs.

Vimbai’s life is not too bad, considering that Zimbabwe is a pretty horrible place to be. She even reckons she might get a promotion, and have a faint hope of making ends meet and be able to educate her daughter — until Dumisani joins the salon staff and quickly becomes the main drawcard. However, Vimbai can make some cash out of Dumisani by letting him become her lodger.

The two become friends, and more than friends. But there are things about Dumisani that Vimbai can’t quite make out: he seems to be the perfect companion, but he has secrets. And when Vimbai discovers the truth (which readers may well arrive at before she does), things unravel at a horrifying speed.

The Hairdresser of Harare is, for two thirds of its length, a delightful read. It doesn’t spare the reader the horrors of life in Zimbabwe, but it is lively, clever and ironic. But the author has an axe to grind as well — a perfectly reasonable axe, it must be said. But once he gets grinding, he loses his way and becomes didactic and even boring. It’s a pity, because there’s a lot to like here.


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