Three very different men struggle with thoughts of belonging, loss, identity and love as they attempt to find a place for themselves in Britain. The Maestro, a depressed, quixotic character, sinks out of the real world into the fantastic world of literature. The Magistrate tries to create new memories and roots, fusing a wandering exploration of Edinburgh with music. The Mathematician, full of youth, follows a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle, until their three universes collide.
In this carefully crafted, multi-layered novel, Tendai Huchu, critically acclaimed author of The Hairdresser of Harare, with his inimitable humour, reveals much about the Zimbabwe story as he draws the reader deep into the lives of the three main characters.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and for the most part it was a nice experience. I enjoyed the humour most of the time, particularly The Magistrate’s story line; but obviously I couldn’t connect with the story long enough to finish the book.
Why I didn’t finish it
- Language Barrier: There were way too many phrases in some Zimbabwean language ( I don’t know if they have more than one) which made reading this book stressful for me. Is it too much to ask for an English translation? Especially since the book isn’t sold exclusively in Zimbabwe. I kept feeling like I wasn’t getting the whole story, I couldn’t connect with the characters… In short, I felt alienated by the writer.
- The Maestro: For some reason, the chapters involving this character were written in a jumble of sentences. There were no paragraphs, and the first chapter I read like this actually gave me a headache. I didn’t realize what was wrong at first, and once I did I was very reluctant to read any subsequent Maestro chapters out of fear of getting hurt. So i went ahead and skipped the chapters. At this point, i was really starting to resent the writer but the Magistrate was lovable enough for me to keep going.
- I should point out that I get that this style of writing for the Maestro is completely fitting and he isn’t a less interesting character by any means but there should have been a warning of some sort for sensitive individuals like me. Books shouldn’t make you physically sick.
- Pacing: The Blurb promised me a collision of universes, and 200+ pages into this novel, the only collisions that occurred where fist fights started by a very unstable friend of the Mathematician. I wouldn’t have minded following these characters on their separate adventures but something was supposed to happen and it was taking forever to get there.
- Tendai: Just at the point when I was painfully working my way through this book one chapter at a time; this happens:
What on Earth is the writer doing in my book? As some kind of creepy guy no less. What is this? What is the purpose of featuring in your own book? Any writers in the house care to explain this to me? ’cause I don’t get it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this in 2016 too; A weirder and more extended version of this happened in Blackass, and i hated it then almost as much as i hate it now Anyways at this point i closed this book and filed it under DNF.
Maybe some day I’ll pick up this novel again, but this pretty much sums up how I feel right now.