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The Boy Next Door

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  584 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
Winner of the 2010 Orange Prize for New Writers
"Immediately engaging, vivid and buzzing with energy, The Boy Next Door is the work of a true storyteller... At heart a love story, it is also so much more as, through the experiences of its charismatic protagonists, it charts the first two decades of the emerging Zimbabwe with honesty, humour and humanity... Irene Sabatini ha
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,432)
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Alayne Bushey
Nov 05, 2009 Alayne Bushey rated it really liked it
Breathe in. And out. Where do I begin with this review?

I received this book from Hachette Book Group; I’ll start there. It sat on my bookcase for a while before I was ready to pick it up; it was intimidating and large and serious looking and I knew I needed to be ready for it. I started it, and fifty pages in I stopped and restarted it, and I’m glad I did. Restarting it allowed me to settle in with the narrative voice, it let me be fully familiar with Lindiwe and the way she uses memories to fil
seanat (elka)
Jan 21, 2010 seanat (elka) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2010
What I love about reading is that you can pick up a book you've never heard of, full of a place and time you know nothing about and by the end of it have a real feel for the people and their lives.
A small mystery , an unlikely seemingly impossible relationship and real characters set amid the turmoil of post-war Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sets the scene for a very memorable book. This book was 'lekker'!!
Nov 17, 2011 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Muphyn
This book immerses the reader in the political unrest experienced in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) as well as the culture, religiosity and corruption. The Boy Next Door is the coming-of-age story of a young black girl and the white boy next door, their romance, trials, and troubles as a racially-mixed couple in a political hot zone. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that Ian (white boy) appears to have the deepest loyalties to Zimbabwe of the two of them. In spite of the educati ...more
Steve Jones
Sep 17, 2009 Steve Jones rated it it was amazing
I loved this engrossing novel. In a crowded market of first time novels this one stands out both for its unusual setting - Zimbabwe in the years following independence - and for its sure handling, a keenly observed story by a writer who clearly knows the world she describes and who is obviously passionate about all her characters.

Lindiwe and Ian are the protagonists, neighbouring teenagers who inhabit very different worlds, she a black Zimbabwean, he a 'Rhodie' with the attitudes of a ruling eli
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I picked up this book looking for a novel about Zimbabwe, but it turned out to be a “modern relationships” type book--a story about how relationships are difficult and complicated, with a Zimbabwean backdrop. Which might not have been so bad, except that I never believed in the relationship and there’s precious little plot to capture the reader’s attention. The first chapter was promising, but the rest of the book failed to deliver.

The Boy Next Door chronicles the relationship between Lindiwe, t
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After signing up for the Around the World in 52 Books challenge for 2012, I ended up in a handful of other groups having to do with world literature. This was selected as the November contemporary lead in the Great African Reads group. I'm behind, and then chose to listen to the audio, but I finished today.

First of all - the narrator of the audiobook was wonderful. She has also done some Adichie and I would love to hear her do that. Her accents really brought the story to life for me, particular
Wilhelmina Jenkins
May 07, 2010 Wilhelmina Jenkins rated it really liked it

Had I reviewed this book after the first 150 pages, I would only have given it 3 stars. It had the usual first novel feel, with passages that could have been much more fully explored. But by the time I reached the end of the book, I had been totally drawn in. The relationship between Ian, a "Rhodie" and Lindiwe, a young "colored" woman in Zimbabwe shortly after independence was initially not that compelling - typical teen love. But as the book went on, their struggle to build a meaningful life t
Joyce Reeds
Aug 09, 2009 Joyce Reeds rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I absolutely loved it. I am returing the ARC to the friend I borrowed it from but I am going to buy my own copy. I googled the book and found the following review by Debra Ginsberg in Shelf-Awareness which really captures the way I felt about the story:

Irene Sabatini's remarkable debut novel about Zimbabwe is a kaleidoscopic blend of elements encompassing everything from coming of age and first love to race, nationalism and the rapid degradation of a once-thriving country.... Her portrayal of t
Jul 04, 2009 Max rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I’ve read in many years. The characters are very much alive and the story is vividly told. There is so much life and suffering at the beginning… I was saddened by what seemed to be another tragic story about the impossibility of living through one’s choices. But how the story proved me wrong! I got engrossed with the plot a little more every page I turned and ended up feeling very emotional and attached to the characters, all of them. They all have a truth to tell. This boo ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
I loved this book. It was a wonderful, page-turning, sometimes heartbreaking, clear eyed, unsentimental immersion in Zimbabwe from the 80s til today, told through the lens of a powerful uncliched love story. It has the sweep and power of an epic novel, a fresh crisp narrative voice, and characters it is easy to care passionately about. A lovely counterpoint to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs...

This book goes beyond archetype and cliche and shows us life in Zimbabwe from the inside. It's not easy to b
Feb 23, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by this story. It tells the tale of Lindiwe, who starts a relationship with the boy next door, who was accused of murder. He is white, she is coloured - half white half black. What happens in her teenage years impacts her later in life when Ian returns from South Africa to discover her secret, and he blows her life apart.

Following the turmoil of her own situation, is the growing tension in Zimbabwe where the story is set.

There is a line in the story, which I absolutely
I tried to give this book a chance, but I honestly did not enjoy reading it. I had a number of issues:
- The use of slang. I don't mind it when the words are explained, but as they were not, it was very difficult to understand what the characters were referring to a lot of the time. A skilled author could use the context of the story to explain to the reader what the words mean - otherwise, a glossary would have sufficed.
- The political aspects of the story. I don't know anything about Zimbabwe/
Dec 04, 2010 Jane rated it it was amazing
Hooray for the orange Award for new Writers!

Why? Because this book might never come to my attention had it not been shortlisted.

The setting interested me: Zimbabwe shortly after the Act of Settlement and the first free elections, when white minority rule ended and Robert Mugabe came to power. I was young but my best friend had cousins the same age as us in Zimbabwe, and so we followed developments carefully.

And then the heroine captivated me. In 1978 she was 14, the same age as me and we seemed
Aug 25, 2015 Darcie rated it liked it
'The Boy Next Door' is a thoughtful and unusual take on a politically-involved love story. The historical and political themes woven within the storyline made for an interesting read, and I learnt a lot about Zimbabwe's changing past. However this was mostly due to me researching on the sideline, and not through the book itself. The story seemed to drift between the complicated relationship of Lindiwe and Ian, to the various other characters, not always giving enough time to develop their person ...more
Booky Seattlites
Aug 29, 2010 Booky Seattlites rated it really liked it
Engaging story of the evolution of love in post-independence Zimbabwe as the country teeters on the edge of civil war. A first novel by a writer I look forward to hearing from again. Good voice, interesting characters and a compelling story.
Sep 16, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it
What a beautiful story. Loved every page, loved Lindiwe's voice and the setting. I felt like I was in the middle of a girl growing up and a country devolving.
Feb 16, 2015 Terri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
The Boy Next Door is a perfectly satisfactory novel set against the turmoil of a country going through massive political change. The story begins with Lindiwe, an awkward black teenager who falls for a white boy of questionable character and follows her through different points in her life as she grows up in a time of great political discontent.

I grew up in South Africa and I enjoyed much of this story as it brought back a lot of memories for me. However, I was never able to fully connect with t
This book is really sweet. While also managing to be hard-hitting and making me think. I like.
Nov 08, 2014 Lester rated it really liked it
Biltong-dried, cured meat
Boerewors-type of sausage
Mapani worms-high protein fried catapillars
I didn't know that Cecil John Rhodes was a 'British born, South African statesman'. I did know that my father grew up going to the Cecil Rhodes school in Winnipeg!!
The last 3-4 paragraphs of this book made me feel so good..and Savuka-Johnny Clegg singing The Scatterlings of Africa is one of my most very favourite songs! Have a will 'hook you'!
Irene Sabatini, I looke
I’m not sure if anyone gave this book less than four stars……because I’m seeing mostly good reviews for this book. I think I don’t fall in that category because to me this book was not that great. In fact most of the time, I’m lost and don’t see the point to this story at all.

*************SPOILERS ALERT***************

I picked up this book because, when I read the synopsis I thought “oh sounds like a teen/adult mystery of a girl who is indecisive with her feeling and logic because of her uncharte
May 11, 2016 Belle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sjoe the pages in this book just bubbled along singing to me. A wonderfully gripping opening line and pretty much throughout I was kept on my toes. It was so real that at times I felt like a voyeur inside the room unable to influence but so on edge I couldn't stop reading or watching. Numerous times I was skillfully knocked back by yet another twist and turn, which I hadn't seen coming, and yet each and every shock had indeed been gently weaved together by Sabatini to create this edge of your se ...more
Sep 23, 2015 Pallavi rated it really liked it
A very poignant and beautifully written story – although unsettling at times. Thanks to Goodreads and thanks to Orange Award for New Writers that one gets to discover writers one had never heard or known about. Irene Sabatini's debut book certainly has gotten me interested and I would love to read more of her writings. In this book, she clearly knows and understands the world she is describing - the laidback city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, right through the 1980's to the late 1990's - a place she ...more
Sep 02, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
This book spans two decades in Zimbabwe's history from the declaration of independence in the early 1980's to the late 1990's as Robert Mugabe's reign is reaching heights of new violence and torture. At the time of this significant change in society Lindiwe a 14 year old African girl is living next door to the Mackenzie family, white Rhodesians including 17 year old Ian and his stepmother. It is not giving away the plot as it is mentioned in the first page, but Ian is arrested for a brutal crime ...more
This fulfills the Read Harder Challenge category for a big by an author from an African country. Zimbabwe, in this case.

This was a very immersive read. It's not going to hold your hand on any aspect. Not on the terminology, not on the history, not on what you're supposed to be feeling. No easy answers. But if you take a deep breath and trust the story it goes some very interesting, emotional places. Lindiwe and Ian feel like real people in a lot of ways. I think a lot of people end up settling
Sep 25, 2009 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance, fiction
"The Boy Next Door" is an engrossing novel that starts out as a mystery of sorts (did Ian really do it?) in which curiosity about her neighbor leads to friendship and then love. But it's not an easy love.

The writing style was a bit rambling at times, especially at the beginning when the story often sidetracked in time or focus. However, I didn't find this distracting and was able to follow what was going on. The author also primarily wrote in the present tense ("he says" instead of "he said"), b
Jul 11, 2010 Darryl rated it really liked it
This debut novel begins in post-independence Zimbabwe, in the city of Bulawayo. Lindiwe Bishop is a 14 year old girl who is a 'lightie', a Zimbabwean of mixed descent, whose family is the first to integrate a formerly white neighborhood in the city. Their closest neighbors are the McKenzies, including their 17 year old son Ian. The McKenzies are 'Rhodies', descendants of the original British colonialists that helped to create the state of Rhodesia, who are nonplussed to find themselves out of po ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Holly marked it as to-read
From Musings: 4 stars

Set in post-colonial Zimbabwe, The Boy Next Door is the story of Lindiwe Bishop, a quiet 14-year-old girl of mixed race. She and her family live in what was previously an all-white suburb. Ian McKenzie, the boy in the title, is a few years older, of British (white) descent, and when the story opens, has just been arrested for setting his stepmother on fire. Despite, or perhaps because of, parental warnings, Lindiwe is fascinated by Ian. When he is cleared of charges and retu
Carly Thompson
Literary fiction that takes place over two decades in Zimbabwe. The book starts in the early 1980s when Lindiwe Bishop 15 years old. She is considered colored under Zimbabwe's definitions of race (her father is colored which means he is of mixed race, black and white, and her mother is black). She is fascinated by the white boy next door, Ian, who is accused of murdering his stepmother before being exonerated and released. The first section of the book deals with Lindiwe's growing relationship w ...more
Apr 03, 2011 SJ rated it it was amazing
From a literary standpoint, this might well be on the list of best books I've ever read. Not the most entertaining, but, o, so beautifully written. It makes me wish I had reserved 5 stars for very special occasions only. The timeline covers the political history of Zimbabwe through a young girl's fascination with the boy who lives next door and has been accused of burning his step mother alive. There is so much going on in this book that I don't want to spoil it. What I can express is my respect ...more
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Great African Reads: November | "The Boy Next Door" 61 35 Mar 19, 2012 05:43PM  
Around the World: Zimbabwe - Marieke Recommends The Boy Next Door 1 17 Oct 01, 2011 11:25AM  
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I was born some forty years ago in Hwange, a coal mining town in west Zimbabwe. I grew up in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

Bulawayo is known for its rather sleepy, laid back nature and its graceful colonial era architecture, examples of which can be found on my website

I spent many hours in the fabulous Public L
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