In this much-anticipated second novel from Huchu (The Hairdresser of Harare, 2015), the lives of three Zimbabwean transplants to Edinburgh intertwine as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a foreign land.
“You know why these people colonised us, right?” a friend says early on to the character known only as the Magistrate. “It’s the cold, it drives a man mad, so, when they came to Africa and saw us lounging in the sun, it drove them absolutely berserk.” Huchu is a master of crafting savvy and wry social observations. Here, complex characters are organically created through heightened, vivid dialogue and stream-of-consciousness interior thoughts. The Magistrate—who served in this judicial capacity back home in the city of Bindura, Zimbabwe, but has yet to find work in Scotland—feels the shame of being unable to provide for his family “looping round his intestines” while his relationship with his wife grows strained because of it. Farai, a Ph.D. student in economics whose family remains back in Zimbabwe, instead aches with the absence of his family and his homeland. The pot-smoking Maestro simply seeks comfort in drugs and entertainment. The loss and preservation of one’s own culture in an alien land is a major theme: “his daughter had been here too long” and was in danger of losing her Zimbabwean cultural values, moans the Magistrate. “Already her speech had a slight Scottish inflexion.” But as the political situation in Zimbabwe grows unstable, the personal lives of the expatriates also spiral dangerously out of control in a series of suspenseful, albeit somewhat contrived, plot points.
A sensitive exploration of the concepts of identity, family, and home grounded in a rich, intricately detailed depiction of the immigrant experience of the global African diaspora.