Saturday, May 05, 2007

Book Review: Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions
by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions, written by Tsitsi Dangarembga in 1989, is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a young woman in Rhodesia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The story centers around Tambu and Nyasha, female cousins who, until their early teens, lead very different lives.

Tambu was raised on her family's farm in Umtali where she was responsible for household chores, gardening, and caring for her younger siblings. Tambu's dreams of getting an education are only fulfilled when her brother dies and she becomes next in line for school since she has no other brothers. She is allowed to stay with her aunt and uncle while she attends school at the mission. While there, Tambu shares a room with her cousin, Nyasha and the girls teach each other many lessons.

Nyasha spent most of her formative years in England while her mother and father were pursuing graduate studies. When she comes back to Africa she realizes the vast differences between British and Rhodesian culture--especially where women are concerned. She experiences inner turmoil as she tries to come to terms with being a woman in this context. As we see Nyasha's struggles through the eyes of Tambu, we begin to understand the continuing devastation countries are experiencing as a result of colonization by another culture.

Sara's comments:

Another wonderful novel to recommend! I have really enjoyed this book, which explores the position of several women living in the same country whose lives take vastly different directions according to their circumstances and the constraints of their changing society. Nyasha and Tambu are the main characters, but we also see the struggles of their mothers, one who loses her children to the mission school and the prospect of a better life through education, the other who is unable to enjoy the benefits of her masters degree because she is required to play the role of the traditional wife.

Tsitsi Dangarembga bio here.

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