Dangarembga’s acclaimed first novel tells of the coming-of-age of Tambu, and through her, also offers a profound portrait of African society. In awarding Nervous Conditions the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa in 1989, the judges described the book as a beautiful and sensitive exploration of the plight and struggle of an African people…. A distinguishing feature of this work is its courageous honesty and devastating understatement.
From Publishers Weekly
Tambu, an adolescent living in colonial Rhodesia of the ’60s, seizes the opportunity to leave her rural community to study at the missionary school run by her wealthy, British-educated uncle. With an uncanny and often critical self-awareness, Tambu narrates this skillful first novel by a Zimbabwe native. Like many heroes of the bildungsroman, Tambu, in addition to excelling at her curriculum, slowly reaches some painful conclusions–about her family, her proscribed role as a woman, and the inherent evils of colonization. Tambu often thinks of her mother, “who suffered from being female and poor and uneducated and black so stoically.” Yet, she and her cousin, Nyasha, move increasingly farther away from their cultural heritage. At a funeral in her native village, Tambu admires the mourning of the women, “shrill, sharp, shiny, needles of sound piercing cleanly and deeply to let the anguish in, not out.” In many ways, this novel becomes Tambu’s keening–a resonant, eloquent tribute to the women in her life, and to their losses.
Nervous Conditions is an absorbing page-turner that will delight the reader. –Bloomsbury Review
Dangarembga’s characters are fascinating, and the issue of freedom is examined dispassionately and firmly. A unique and valuable book. –Booklist