When teenager Bukhosi vanishes following a rally of the Mthwakazi Secessionist Movement, his friend Zamani strives to infiltrate his way into his family, aiming to replace him in his parent’s affections by finding out all he can about their “hi-story”. This spans back half a century into the history of Zimbabwe, from the latter days of colonial Rhodesia and the Civil War through to the genocide and atrocities carried out in the name of the new regime. Zimani is a unreliable narrator, planning and manipulating for his own ends, hidden in his own hi-story which is linked with his friend’s family. He gleefully exploits weaknesses in his quest to find some form of revenge whilst being inextricably pulled into what he sees as this new family grouping.
This is an extraordinary debut novel from an author who grew up in Zimbabwe. I had a very sketchy knowledge of her homeland before reading this and the complexities which lay behind this African country, but her handling of the location has certainly enriched my understanding. And this has been achieved totally through story as the author weaves the events in the lives of Bukhosi’s parents with Zimani’s in a narrative steeped in the development of this nation both before and after independence. Along the way, there are some brilliantly memorable characters and writing often outstanding in its vibrancy and power. The horrors are not at all shied away from, but there are also moments of great humour and to put at the centre the dark machinations of the narrator is a stroke of genius. It’s a prime example of how a location can be seamlessly embedded into a plot and used to inform and enrich.
Phil Ramage 5/5
House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Atlantic Books 9781786493163 hbk Jun 2018