Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

    The Hairdresser of Harare
Tendai Huchu; Published October 12, 2010 by Weaver Press
In a country where homosexuals are condemned by their president as being “lower than pigs and dogs”, where one could be prosecuted and imprisoned for committing “homosexual acts”, comes a story of a young man forced to lead a shadow of a life to avoid the harsh consequences of living openly.
Vimbai, the self proclaimed number one hairdresser in Harare is livid with jealousy when the good looking, smooth-talking Dumisani joins the esteemed Mrs Khumalo’s Hair Salon and snatches the number one spot. Against her better judgement Vimbai soon falls under his infectious charm not knowing that Dumisani holds a shocking secret, one that will turn her views of the world upside-down. The Hairdresser of Harare catapults us into the world of Zimbabwe’s elite society, where stereotypes and prejudices are as abundant as the lavishness. It tactfully tackles the issue of homosexuality that most African literature shies away from.
Goodreads on The Hairdresser of Harare

Don’t throw anything at me, ok?

The story of the novel is very touching, slightly terrorizing and has a message that needs to be spread, high and low. On the story itself, I’ll give it a 5 out of 5 anytime, it’s a heart wrenching dramatic tale of greed, intolerance, ignorance and lack of human compassion. It paints the colors of a scary world, one I will shamelessly say I’d never ever want to live in. Of course, I don’t have to, I was born in a place that is much easier to live in, though far from perfect no doubt.

The story has a chilling realism to it, or so it feels to me. The greedy, misogynistic family members; the manipulative lover that showers a young and beautiful play-thing with gifts and money for a while, until they get tired of them and go look for a new pet-project, refusing to take responsibility for their actions if the need arises; the deeply rooted and disgusting homophobic ideas that same-sex couples are somehow gross, sinister, perverted and surely can’t be based on any sort of love; the self-centered irrational reactions of someone who feels they’ve been cheated out of things they desired and thought would be theirs; the immoral, abusive officials that use their power to oppress, scheme and cheat their way to whatever they think is entitled to them. I know all these people, I know lots of people like any one of these examples. In portraying them, Tendai Huchu did a marvelous job.

Now comes the tough part…I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the characters as they were written. I’m not sure if this makes sense to you. The story itself, the facts, elicited a great lot of emotional response, however the characters themselves did not. I didn’t “feel” any of them, not Vimbai, not Dumi, or any other. I didn’t get into the “mood” at all. Actually, I felt the sad impulse to drop it, but I persevered. There’s all sorts of writing styles, many of which will appeal to any number of people, but this one did not appeal to me.

From the plot-organizing point of view, it was all there, all rightly timed and settled. The storyline flew well, it lingered enough on just the right spots. That’s why I did like the story, in a strange and detached way from the rest of the book.

All of this, of course, is based on a very personal thing, my very own taste in reading. There is nothing poorly done about the book, nothing lacking about it.
But don’t just take my word for it, read for yourselves, give it a try.


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