Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Boy Next Door” as Want to Read:
The Boy Next Door
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Boy Next Door

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  786 ratings  ·  119 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Boy Next Door, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Boy Next Door

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  786 ratings  ·  119 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Boy Next Door
Alayne Bushey
Oct 29, 2009 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 19, 2010 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'!!
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Apr 24, 2010 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
Nov 02, 2011 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
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
Steve Jones
Sep 08, 2009 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
Jul 04, 2009 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 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
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
Joyce Reeds
Aug 03, 2009 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
Brenda Kodawa
This is a love story set in the 80s and 90s in Zimbabwe just when the country had attained independence and was trying 'to find itself'. Sabatini gives insight into the atmosphere and the relationships between the races inhabiting the country at the time and what effect the transition had on an interracial friendship and eventually a relationship.

Her writings style is almost poetic and sometimes reads like a play script. This transports you to the setting and you do actually get to see Lindiwe a
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very nice african story. As a person who spent 4 years in high school in Bulawayo in the mid 90s it was very nostalgic reading about the city, the shops, the roads, arh the memories.
Funny though my experience and how I remember things in the 90s is a bit different from the way the book describes them. There seems to be more action in the book and I never experienced the levels of the racial undertones depicted, while I was school, and yes I did go to a former whites only school that was now inte
Monica Lamperd
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 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
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Towards the end of this book, it's protagonist, Lindiwe reads out loud a sign scrawled in blood, "VOTE ZANU-PF OR DIE"

This story doesn't start with the tension in Zimbabwe, it begins instead with optimism at Robert Mugabe (alias Uncle Bob) ascension to power in 1980. Rhodesia just became Zimbabwe and the new president mounts the podium to give his opening speech. "Reconciliation is the best policy"

14 year old Lindiwe huddled with her family, listens as the new president takes his oath, "His hand
Feb 16, 2014 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
Booky Seattlites
Aug 29, 2010 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.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was an okay read. Was a bit unrealistic for me. Some of the characters like the parents were too much of caricatures. Would have liked more depth in their personalities and more of a back story. I like how the main character's personality was conveyed. ...more
Sep 16, 2009 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. ...more
This book is really sweet. While also managing to be hard-hitting and making me think. I like.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always good to enjoy a book so much despite the main characters frustrating me deeply.
I ended up quite enjoying this, even though it does have a major flaw, which is that it takes way too long to get to the hook. For the first 40% of the novel, I was like, "Well, I guess I'm getting a feel for what it was like to live in 1980s Zimbabwe, but this isn't really much of a story." Then there was a major twist and things got so much more interesting.

The main character is Lindiwe, a young Coloured woman in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The book follows her for about 15 years of her life, starting
Poornima Vijayan
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
It''s a good novel. Nothing spectacularly wonderful. More fast reading than anything else. Lin is often conflicted but without any deep secrets. But Ian.. Ian is flawed, charming, certain and uncertain at the same time. Zimbabwe as the backdrop offers hardly any deep insight into the changes that happen, and the focus is more on the unaffected individuals in the novel. It could have been set anywhere and nothing would have changed. If you want to read a book about a first love, a forever love; g ...more
Hannah Masood
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
i luvvv the character ian! you just feel lindiwe's love for him and him for her. at first, he comes of as brash and heartless. that maybe he's just toying with her, them being neighbours and all, overshadowed by the apartheid. but the question of whether he did or did not kill his step mum remains unanswered since his answers, whenever questioned by lindiwe, always changes. despite the disrepancy in this, i think it is meant to be presented in that manner. and that despite their differences, the ...more
Valerie Osei
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Took me quite a few pages to really appreciate this piece of work. But once you wrap your mind around the story and the lives of Ian and Lindiwe, and how they have been intertwined, it becomes hard to pull yourself away. Their relationship is quite different from that typical "young love" story. I really grew to appreciate Sabatini's way of storytelling and kind of wanted the story to continue towards the end. The backdrop of the Rhodesian war and Zimbabwe's journey to independence offers a real ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I’m disappointed! I had this book on my “To Read” list and was so excited when I found it at a book sale! I got to page 132 and couldn’t go any further. I feel like the only way anybody could follow this book is to be well-versed on African politics and the different groups who are fighting against each other. I thought, by the book’s description, that it was going to be more focused on the characters than the things happening around them. The characters weren’t likeable. Nothing about this book ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking and unsettling. This story of a biracial girl and a white African in very turbulent times in Zimbabwe will stay with me for a long time. The reader walks along Lindiwie as she witnesses the destruction of her family and childhood town. She struggles with her mixed race bloodline in Africa where having any black blood means you are black. She feels the discrimination that Ian overlooks. Then hatred and violence is appalling even more so when one realizes that it is not fiction.
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
So lovely, so nuanced, so educational. The dialogue is pitch perfect. Lindiwe and Ian have a complex relationship, but I loved every minute of their courtship, sweet and frustrating as it was. Lindiwe is a quietly observant narrator, who keeps her cards very close to her chest. She keeps a lot to herself, and I liked that Ian had to work hard to decipher her thoughts, actions, and choices. The reader, however, is in a lucky position. We have direct access to her internal monologue, peppered with ...more
Susan Frazier-Kouassi
I learned a lot about the history of Zimbabwe but found myself constantly disappointed with the main female character. She never seemed to really grow up and become her strong independent self, always reflecting on herself through the eyes of someone else. Maybe that is how the author wanted to characterize her. She always seem infantile and insecure to me, maybe I'm being too hard on both the author and the character she developed. Perhaps this is a thinly disguised autobiography. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Just Us: An American Conversation
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • Larry's Party
  • The Pumpkin Eater
  • The Son and Heir: A Memoir
  • Negroland
  • Your Story, My Story
  • De levens van Jan Six
  • The Dig
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Muidhond
  • Nora Webster
  • Solar
  • The Voyage of the Narwhal
  • Joe Speedboot
  • Baas in eigen boerka
  • Testament of Youth
  • Dirt Music
See similar books…


I was born some fifty 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

News & Interviews

These twelve books are so consistently adored, they have become regulars month after month in our data of most popular and most read books on...
123 likes · 43 comments