mind of amaka, hairdresser of harare review
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The Hairdresser of Harare – A Review

The Hairdresser of Harare is a book by Tendai Huchu, telling the story of Vimbai, Harare’s ‘top’ hairdresser. Her life takes a drastic turn one day when a young man called Dumisani comes into her life, taking not just her position, but invading all other areas of her life. 

 

I like reading fiction – it allows me to visit places I’ve never been and look at life through the lenses of people I’ve never met. I particularly appreciate African authors for the stories they tell, especially when the stories are based in their countries. That being said, I found myself glued when I read the description:

Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until the handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani shows up one day for work. Despite her resistance, the two become friends, and eventually, Vimbai becomes Dumisani’s landlady. He is as charming as he is deft with the scissors, and Vimbai finds that he means more and more to her. Yet, by novel’s end, the pair’s deepening friendship—used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind—collapses in unexpected brutality.

Based on this description, I just knew I had to read it! And so I did. 

The Story

I’ve been to African salons all through my life, and so I easily could get the gist of the daily occurrences and characters. I really loved the whole set-up!

Vimbai is a single mother, the most sought after hairdresser in her place of work, Mrs Khumalo’s salon. She’s very proud and believes strongly that she is irreplaceable. Her formula is simple – make women feel like white women. Give the customer what they want.

mind of amaka, hairdresser of harare review

Thus, she struts into work whenever and has a ‘you need me’ attitude. However, she’s forced to change all this when Dumisani struts into the salon today and works on one of her customers, causing ripples to move through the salon. Dumisani is hired and she begins to feel her ‘irreplaceability’ slip out of her grasps. She hates him, but he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Customers begin to pour in all in search of his magical hands, and she feels herself fade into irrelevancy. Yet, a relationship begins to bud between them as he needs to rent a room in her house. From then on, things take off, but eventually crash down.

My Thoughts

I liked everything, from the characters to the setting to the story. First of all, I’ve never read a novel by a Zimbabwean author (I’ve read Sierra Leonian, Nigerian, Somalian, Ghanian), so that was awesome. That, and the fact the story was set in Harare, Zimbabwe. While the story went on, it also showed how sad the state of the country is through glimpses of the day-to-day activities of the characters.

Things like having to queue up for sugar, with things like tampons being scarce really made me sad. I really wonder how the people of Zimbabwe have been doing it. I appreciated the glimpse.

Awesome Characters

 

I liked the characters, and I wouldn’t say I had a favourite because they were all awesome. Vimbai was proud, but she’d been through a lot. She was a single mother struggling to make something out of herself while also raising her daughter. She also was struggling with her other family members – I liked that the story also touched on how greed can tear families apart. Vimbai is living in the house willed to her by her late brother, and her older brothers were outraged by this. They attempted to forcefully take the house but the police had to be brought into the matter. Why do people allow such things to destroy them?

I also liked that Dumisani was a guy. I remember when I first returned to Nigeria and I went to a salon in the market near my house. The hairdresser was a guy, and though I knew it wasn’t a new concept, I was still pretty shocked. I also wondered what it was like to be him, and how certain people would perceive him, or even question his sexuality, based on his profession. He’s a pretty good hairdresser though, and he owns the salon!

To me, the story started off well – depicting life in Zimbabwe and other social issues, but it also kind of turned cinderella-ish towards the end. What are the odds of a stinking rich guy coming to work in a salon and whisking you off your feet? Can that happen in real life? It reminded me of those movies and books where the hot popular and rich guy falls for the nerd. Then again, it is fiction, and I still enjoyed it.

The story also touched on life decisions we make, as well as one topic I haven’t seen explored much in African literature (because I’ve not read much) – homosexuality. I don’t like giving spoilers, so I’ll just let you read The Hairdresser of Harare for yourself!

Should You Read The Hairdresser of Harare?

hairdresser of harare review, mind of amaka

I’d give The Hairdresser of Harare an 8/10. It was a nice read, and I’m giving 8 because I want to look like a ‘professional’ reviewer. I know left to me, I’d rate every book I read a 10 because I’m easily entertained. You should totally read it, it’s very entertaining, but the end is quite sad-ish. It’ll really have you thinking of certain issues and how you’d react to them.

Also, can we just show some love for that cover? I love good book covers! It’s so beautiful, and I like how in the afro there are buildings, hair styling tools and things that relate to what the story is about On point! The afro comb with the heart on the end is also a nice touch

After writing this review, I feel like embarking on a challenge – reading books from authors/set in every African country. I’d really love to see what they’d tell me! I mean, I don’t have coin for travelling yet, so why not start with books eh?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review! If you want other reviews on books by African authors, check these out (click to read):

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu

 

 

 

Amaka

A young girl trying to maneuver through life, while being an absolute weirdo with a wild imagination. I love Pinterest & Instagram and claim to love food although I barely eat.

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5 Comments

  1. I really liked this review and I have seen this book so frequently, I already feel like I know the story.
    I just started actively collecting books and being intentional about reading, and African Literature( more like Nigerian) has taken over my life right now especially with the Super cool Bookstagram people I follow.
    I really do think you should do more book reviews, I enjoy reading them. Do you enjoy e-books?
    http://www.desireuba.WordPress.com

    1. I love ebooks o. Not that I have a choice anyway. Even If I did have a choice, I’d definitely always pick eBooks. What about you? Bookstagram people are awesome! I find most of my must-reads through Goodreads though. I’m definitely going to do the occasional book review as I actually enjoy them. It’s just that I’m no pro and don’t always critically analyse everything

  2. I think I have this book in my ebook library, your review is making me want to start already. But first I need to finish Othuke Ominiabohs’ Odufa.

  3. Omoefe says:

    I finished reading it yesterday! I loved it, I get the Cinderella-ish comment you made. I was expecting it to sour from the get go. Because those things do not exist, and she was acting really naive, for someone who’d had a bad experience before. I see your 8, I raise it to an 8.5. This was one beautiful African book. But tell me you knew his secret before it was revealed.
    If you loved this, I’ll like to suggest “stay with me -Ayobami Adebayo”.

    1. Exactly, like it was kind of unrealistic. You’re also right about the naiveté. I definitely knew the secret lol! It wasn’t exactly something that was a shocker, it was all about waiting for HER to find out instead. I’ve been meaning to read Stay With Me but I hear it’s such a sad book and the lady suffers so much.. I just felt a tad reluctant. Will definitely get to it soon!

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