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The Hairdresser of Harare

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,847 ratings  ·  303 reviews
In this delicious and devastating first novel, which The Guardian named one of its ten best contemporary African books, Caine Prize finalist Tendai Huchu (The Maestro, the Magistrate, and the Mathematician) portrays the heart of contemporary Zimbabwean society with humor and grace.

Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until
Kindle Edition, 200 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Ohio University Press (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  1,847 ratings  ·  303 reviews

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Brown Girl Reading
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lover of African Literature - Zimbabwe
This book wasn't at all what I expected. The first half of the book gave a very good idea what everyday life is like in Harare and that was the best thing about it, however the story was being milked with a twist that was obvious from the start. It dragged on it seemed like forever. I was waiting for something to happen. Finally when the mystery is revealed to the main character, she reacts badly and does something that is just mean and spiteful. As a result the consequences are tragic. I'm not ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Hairdresser of Harare had a Nollywood feel that was refreshing to see in literature form. with the high drama, the wahala, the women gossiping, etc. It was easy reading; I started and didn't want to stop. This book also reminded me of the Aya series, in that it was was in a part of Africa (Zimbabwe), did not pretend that Africa didn't have problems, yet showed everyday life (i.e. not war, disease, and horrible death) and focused on everyday issues. I loved this, and it drew me in. And it's a ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I almost gave it five stars but because it was obvious what was happening, I think really a 4.5. Wonderful use of language though some words are African. Usually either they are explained or easy to figure out. It's a really good book about all kinds of love, some kinds of hate. Zimbabwe is a country being destroyed by the very leaders brought to power by the fight for independence. There are shortages of everything. The money is devalued every day. The government ministers have thugs to handle ...more
Friederike Knabe
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
The Hairdresser of Harare, is a touching story written in the voice of Vimbai, probably the "best" hairdresser in Harare. All ladies who have a standing in society visit the salon of Mrs. Khumalo to be served by the kind, attractive, professional Vimbai. Then, one day, a charming, gorgeously looking young man walks into the salon and, enchanting the owner and the customers present, is hired on the spot. It needed just one of Dumisani's creative hair arrangements for Vimbai's life to change forev ...more
Mal Warwick
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trade-fiction
You can read a dozen nonfiction books about Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe’s kleptocracy and fail to get a more vivid sense of what life is really like there than from this recent novel by Tendai Huchu. In one short work of fiction, Huchu conjures up the sad reality of day-to-day existence in that beleaguered country: the 90 percent unemployment, the ubiquitous corruption, the hyperinflation, the ever-present shortages, the barely functional electricity service, the vicious eviction of white Afric ...more
dianneOnRBG RIPmalaiseBreak
A sad and, (for anyone living in the west) obvious, story of life under the existing prejudices in much of sub Saharan Africa. Primarily a tale of a single, hard working mother who has had some lucky breaks (a home in a good area left to her by her brother) whose interaction with an odd colleague changes her life. What is odd to her is clear to us from page one.

We are given a look at the necessities of survival in Harare - the sort of benign: this trade for that - this wee bit of corruption for
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Imade (Bridge Four)
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't know how to feel about this. I was enjoying the story so much & then it just fell flat for me. The whole book was building towards the "big twist" of the story (which after a while I could predict), and then after the twist was revealed, it was like the story had nowhere else to go or nothing more to offer, like the entire story was crafted around that twist instead of the other way around. The writing style was okay, but only just. Did I like the narrator? Small. And even less after wha ...more
Ayanda Xaba
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vimbai, a brilliant 26 year old hairdresser, meets competition in her place of work when a young gentleman arrives to fill a post. He is the best hairdresser Harare has ever seen. Vimbai naturally feels threatened by him, until she realises what a good man he is. They become friends and he moves into her house to rent one of the rooms. She agrees when he invites her to be his date at his brother's wedding, not knowing that she is being dragged into a web of lies. Dumi introduces her as his girlf ...more
Stephanie Burton
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-africa
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I had seen The Hairdresser Of Harare positively reviewed on other book blogs so jumped at the chance to purchase my own copy when the ebook was discounted recently on Amazon. It's a fairly light-hearted story - although with violent episodes towards the end - and I thought Huchu portrayed modern day Zimbabwe in a lively and entertaining way. I liked his characters, all of whom felt real although perhaps slightly larger than life, and the pote
I wanted to like this book so much. With it being February and all, and my having made a conscious choice to only read black authors as part of Black History Month, I was excited to read something a little bit breezier. I can't honestly remember how I first came across Huchu's The Hairdresser of Harare, though my gut feeling was that it must have caught my eye in a Kindle sale. The premise sounded interesting enough, but sadly it just didn't deliver.

The story follows Vimbai, a single mother from
Claire Hondo
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Keep one step ahead because once you start reacting, you've lost the battle."

Its a story of a hairdresser Vimbai, the Queen B she is like the senior hairdresser for Mrs Khumalo's salon. She is the center of the place hence she feels special until one day, a vacancy arises and a new person comes in to fill it, a guy on top of that Dumisani and all hell starts happening. "To be dispensable is a woman's worst nightmare and I was beginning to live it."

I loved how the author described places and are
This book is cute. Read nearly half of it before deciding... "but so what?" The major probelm is that the narrator is female, but the author is male, and that is very hard to pull off successfully. Anyway, a fine and pleasant and untaxing read for those with a bit more free time on their hands
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting story. Having lived in Bulawayo for 4years it was interesting reading about the country Zimbabwe, very nostalgic.
The story was actually quite captivating, I kept wanting to know how the story would end. Tendai really captured the African story well, she really made me care about the characters she created. I enjoyed reading this book.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every now and again I read a book that makes me stop and appreciate all that I have. One such book was THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE by Tendai Huchu. This isn't nonfiction and isn't filled with dark themes in general. It tells the story of two hairdressers in Harare, Zimbabwe and societal prejudices. One is a male and from a privileged urban family, Dumisani. The other is female, a single mother, and from a poor rural family, Vimbai. Theirs is a story of endurance, jealousy, friendship and betrayal. ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daisy Mae
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a whirlwind! A modern tale blending politics, race, disparity, power, and sexuality.

Vimbai is a young woman in Zimbabwe, struggling to make ends meet. This is nothing new to her; such is life when you aren’t born into the high society, when the economy is crumbling before your eyes and the government that once freed you becomes the thing that keeps you in chains.

She is firm, in all facets: her morals, her tone, and her outlook. She has to be. She is a single mother in a world that doesn’t
Unarine Ramaru
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With my addictive nature coupled with Tendai's effortless skills, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My only problem with it, obviously being the way most characters hold the U.K. up as a kind of social ideal. As one who believes that Africa can still rise to greater heights, the hoisting of the U.K. nearly threw me off. Then again going through the first half of the book, which describes the worsening situation of ordinary Zimbabweans, one can imagine this line best describe first hand experience, "I fel ...more
The main character is the top hairdresser at a salon in Harare, the sort of person who customers come to the salon because she works there, but would leave with her. She turns up late for work but knows her job is safe. However it's not an easy life and things are about to get harder with the arrival of a young, gifted male hairdresser. Suddenly Vimbai's job and future aren't secure, but there are both good and bad outcomes as a result of Dumi's arrival.
I liked the first part, and learning about the everyday life in Zimbabwe. The "big reveal" was very obvious, though, and when it happened, the main character (who's also the narrator), has a very silly and immature reaction, which brings negative consequences for almost everyone.

Like other reviewers said, it's quite anti-climactic, and I'm not sure what is the point of the novel.
Afoma Umesi
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Good enough read. I'm not mad at the predictability at all. I think the author does a good job of conveying human emotion. It gets a tad preachy toward the end, almost like "the moral lesson of this story is ..." . But, quick, enjoyable read for the most part.
Davidson Ajaegbu
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book touched on one of the controversial topics in Africa - Homosexuality. The portrayal of the characters, events and reactions in this book was quite relatable and enjoyable.
Philisiwe Twijnstra
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Yeah read it!!!!
I wonder though is emotionally sensationalizing queerness still makes a great read? I’m having hard time to just be okay with knowing that Dumi is gay and he is beaten up, from a rich family and that’s it... but as a reader I know so much about a heterosexual woman... that makes her full human...🤔🤔🤔

THOH is both a miss and a hit...
I appreciated the themes the book explores. Which are quite crucial and I understand this book was published in 2014. Although I do think that, this
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
I was SOOO happy when I found this book. It seemed like the perfect book, with light-hearted humour and plenty of melodrama and characters that both satirical and yet vibrant and larger-than-life. It was the perfect way to get to know Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans.

But then I got to the final 20% of the book ... and the book fell thoroughly flat. The Big Reveal wasn't that surprising at all (I managed to get there at the halfway point), but the main character just decides to royally fuck up and does s
Neelam Babul
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vimbai, is a brilliant 26 year old hairdresser and single mother who makes a living working at a salon. Vimbai meets competition at her salon when a young gentleman named Dumi arrives to fill the post of a hairdresser. He is the best hairdresser Harare has ever seen. Vimbai naturally feels threatened by him, until she realizes what a good person he is. Dumi brings in an additional factor to the salon, which is style and exeprience, that transforms the experience of beauty and hair care for women ...more
Karen Mardahl
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karen by: Anetq
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a page-turner for me. Each time I finished a chapter, I thought "one more". The story flowed very nicely, painting a very vivid picture of life in Harare under Mugabe with all that entails. It's not a book about politics and yet so much of Zimbabwean life lies between the lines. We see it all through the eyes of Vimbai, a hairdresser and a single mother. The blurb on the book and here on Goodreads says all you really need to know to get started. First, ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inebriati
Engaging story about a Zimbabwean hairdresser and her rivalry and friendship with a mysterious and talented colleague. It reads with the pace and panache of chicklit but weaves so much fascinating detail about the challenges of everyday life in early C20th Harare - poverty and immense class divides, single parenthood, the war veterans, religion, family feuds over money, the difficulties of public transport, male harassment of women on the street, government corruption, food shortages, hyperinfla ...more
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-fiction
The author is trying hard to change entrenched prejudices in African society, and that may be the main merit of the book. The plot starts out well - some good and humorous insights into the reality of daily life in Zimbabwe - for example, pick-pocketing no longer happens because money loses its value so rapidly. I am not sure if the author made Vimbai deliberately irritating - she is hard to empathise with - and naive. What was an unexpected twist in the plot of her life was obvious from the fir ...more
Becki Iverson
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I waited for ages for this to finally get to the library and I'm so excited that it did! This was an unexpectedly perfect read for Pride Month and I really enjoyed it. For a book well under 200 pages it's surprisingly complex and I was constantly kept guessing about where the story was going to go. I appreciated that this book manages to talk about some really serious issues while never getting condescending or culturally inappropriate; it's straightforward without sensationalizing, which I thin ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A somewhat predictable outcome to an otherwise engaging and well written story. I really appreciated the familiarity of the places mentioned in this book; this really is a book set in Harare amidst the political and economic crisis of the mid 2000's.

Perhaps the interweaving of these narratives feels forced in some places and there are times where it feels like the characters are caricatures based on common stereotypes: from Vimbai, the township girl to Dumi, the "spoilt" the private-school educa
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