Saturday, 5 May 2018

#WorldReads - Five Books from Zimbabwe

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post as well as finding out how to join in the challenge.

Click the book titles or cover images to visit their Literary Flits book review pages. Or click the bookshop names to buy your own copy. (Bookshop links are affiliate links so I would earn a small commission from your purchase.)

This month we are going to Zimbabwe!

Zimbabwe has a great literary tradition and, until recently, hosted the largest International Book Fair in Africa. Although Shona is most widely spoken language, many authors write in English, bypassing the need for translations into English and so making their books easier for me to get hold of! The five I present here include two contemporary classics and three new books - Stray was only published in March this year.


The Book Of Memory by Petina Gappah

The Book Depository : from £7.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.15 (PB)
Waterstones : from £7.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £1.38 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £6.16 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Vimbai is the star hairdresser of her salon, the smartest in Harare, Zimbabwe, until the enigmatic Dumisani appears. Losing many of her best customers to this good-looking, smooth-talking young man, Vimbai fears for her job, vital if she's to provide for her young child. But in a remarkable reversal the two become allies, Dumi renting a room from Vimbai, then inviting her to a family wedding, where to her surprise, he introduces her to his rich parents as his 'girlfriend'. Soon they are running their own Harare salon, attracting the wealthiest and most powerful clients in the city. But disaster is near, as Vimbai soon uncovers Dumi's secret, a discovery that will result in brutality and tragedy, testing their relationship to the very limit.

Stray by Bernard Farai Matambo

The Book Depository : from £13.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £10.74 (PB)
Waterstones : from £13.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £8.33 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Zimbabwean writer Bernard Farai Matambo’s poems in Stray favor a prose-shaped line as they uncover the contradictory impulses in search of emotional and intellectual truth. Stray not only captures the essence of identity but also eloquently articulates the pain of displacement and speaks to the vulnerability of Africans who have left their native continent. This collection delicately examines the theme of migration—migration in a literal, geographic sense; migration of language from one lexicon to another; migration of a poem toward prose—and the instability of the creative experience in the broader sense.

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

The Book Depository : from £6.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.29 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £2.51 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Doris Lessing brought the manuscript of ‘The Grass is Singing’ with her when she left Southern Rhodesia and came to England in 1950. When it was first published it created an impact whose reverberations we are still feeling, and immediately established itself as a landmark in twentieth-century literature. Set in Rhodesia, it tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer and his wife, Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

The Book Depository : from £6.11 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.10 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.91 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.

That's it for May's WorldReads from Zimbabwe. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country and if you want more suggestions, click through to see all my Literary Flits reviews of Zimbabwean-authored books! If you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

You can join in my WorldReads Challenge at any time! Simply read 1 or more books from a different country each month, write a post about it/them, grab the button below and add it to your post. Don't forget to pop back here and Comment your link so I can visit!

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, I have already 'visited' America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, ScotlandSouth Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

In June I will be highlighting five books probably by Icelandic authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!


  1. Years back I used to read a lot of african based fiction and non fiction but not so much now. I'd like to find some good African horror!

    1. Hmm, I can recommend Nnedi Okorafor (Lagoon) for Nigerian scifi, but don't think I've read any African horror yet

  2. The Grass is Singing is the one that catches my eye. Enjoy.

    1. A justified classic. Incredible sense of atmosphere :-)

  3. I don't think that I have ever read a book from Zimbabwe. I do need to branch out a bit. The Book of Memory sounds like one that I would really enjoy reading. Great post!

    1. I've got We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo on my TBR as well