book review: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

So the first sentence is “I was not sorry when my brother died”. A shocking start to an incredible ‘coming of being story’ of Tambudzi, a young girl growing up in pre-independence Zimbabwe. This is not so much a narrative about a young woman’s fight for education, as it is about patriarchy, abuse, class, mental health and the ugly effects and impact of colonialism on her and all the other women in her life. At a glance you could read it as how a young woman fights and conquers her way out of poverty but it goes way deeper than that.

The author is purposeful in how she portrays her female characters: Each one is eerily familiar – each one solid in their failings and successes. Her characters are not caricatures of women – they are painfully real and you develop either love, hate, despair and even disdain at some of their choices and actions. Their personalities literally jump at you and you can name people in your own life that resemble them. I strongly identified huge pieces of myself with more than one of the characters. There is no fluffiness in Dangarembga‘s writing – it is gritty and unapologetic in its authenticity.

I give this book a 10 /10, it is a compelling read, and it goes up high on my list of one of the best novels I have read in a while. Even though it was first published in 1988- it will stand the test of time, this is a classic.

The edition I read was published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing in 2004.

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