There is something refreshing about a story that does not zoom in only on a small part of the bigger picture, but explores all dimensions and manages to deliver. We are generally fed dark stories about countries in Africa, always dim and repeated. Here, we are able to go see different parts of a contemporary Zimbabwe without having to neglect the biting issues, striking a good balance between all that takes place in reality.

Vimbai works at Mrs Khumalo’s hair salon and is known as the best hairdresser. Her spotlight is stolen when Dumisani comes looking for a job at the salon and makes such a good impression he becomes not just a member of the staff but the best. Vimbai is not pleased at all but her bitterness is slowly melted away by his charm. When he needs a place to stay she offers to rent out a room in her house. In need of a favour to iron out a few issues with his family, Dumisani asks Vimbai to be his date at his brother’s wedding and it is to Vimbai’s shock that she finds that he is from one of the richest families in Harare. She is also amazed at how welcoming they are and what follows that day is immense generosity towards her, changing her life in a tremendous way. The friendship between the two hairdressers deepens. A lot comes to light when Vimbai discovers Dumisani’s deepest secret about his true character.

The Hairdresser of Harare offers good commentary on the country’s social issues such as homophobia and survival in a country that is not blooming with opportunities for those at the bottom. Huchu’s greatest weapon in his narration is humour, so good that even at times when the story seems to lean towards a miss, the humour saves the day. Jealousy, rivalry between the two main characters, prejudice and ambition are the ingredients to this story. Although altogether an enjoyable read there are parts that are a bit fantastical, such as Vimbai’s road to success and how everything keeps unfolding in her favour, in a place where these opportunities are tragically out of reach for most people. There are also a few parts that are clichéd and a little flat. However, most of the story exhibits Huchu’s clever way of handling political and cultural issues, tragedies in families and morality. The novel is also easy to read and has satisfactory motion. He’s clearly a witty and intelligent writer.

Tendai Huchu was born in Bindura, Zimbabwe in 1982. He went to Churchill High School and then went to study Mining Engineering at the University of Zimbabwe. In the middle of the first semester he dropped out and from there went from one job to another. He later returned to university and is now a podiatrist in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has also written An Untimely Love and The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician. 

Published by Nthepa Segage