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Jane Housham

Tendai Huchu's tale of rivalry between two hairdressers in contemporary Zimbabwe is an entertaining comedy of manners and class, an education in the shocking ruination of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime, and a reminder of the visceral intensity of homophobia in some cultures.

Vimbai is the favoured stylist at Mrs Khumalo's hair salon, but even with the house she inherited from her brother and her steady job it's almost impossible to cope in the face of hyperinflation and food shortages. Huchu brilliantly demonstrates how, in such circumstances, corruption becomes a survival mechanism for anyone who sees an opportunity. So when new arrival Dumisani threatens to snatch Vimbai's crown, she swallows her jealousy to befriend him and be admitted into the charmed circle of his wealthy family. When the truth dawns as to his character (the reader has the pleasure of seeing it coming), her impulse to seek revenge for what must feel like humiliation is shockingly convincing. Vimbai is the creation of an unusually astute and unflinching writer.

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Tendai Huchu’s tale of rivalry between two hairdressers in contemporary Zimbabwe is an entertaining comedy of manners and class, an education in the shocking ruination of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime, and a reminder of the visceral intensity of homophobia in some cultures.

Vimbai is the favoured stylist at Mrs Khumalo’s hair salon, but even with the house she inherited from her brother and her steady job it’s almost impossible to cope in the face of hyperinflation and food shortages. Huchu brilliantly demonstrates how, in such circumstances, corruption becomes a survival mechanism for anyone who sees an opportunity. So when new arrival Dumisani threatens to snatch Vimbai’s crown, she swallows her jealousy to befriend him and be admitted into the charmed circle of his wealthy family. When the truth dawns as to his character (the reader has the pleasure of seeing it coming), her impulse to seek revenge for what must feel like humiliation is shockingly convincing. Vimbai is the creation of an unusually astute and unflinching writer.

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