I loved Tendai Huchu's debut novel, The Hairdresser of Harare (you can read my review here), which gave a great insight into life in the vibrant capital city of Zimbabwe and introduced us to some hilarious, endearing and memorable characters.
The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician sticks with the Zimbabwean characters that the author knows so well but follows the trials and tribulations of the three unconnected men in their new lives in Edinburgh. Maybe it is a result of the grey skies and chilly climate of Scotland, or maybe it is due to the fact that they appear to be almost symbolic figures, given the book title and the chapter headings, but the trio all seem rather less vibrant and ultimately less appealing than the hairdressers of the previous novel.
There were times when I really felt for the characters, in particular the Magistrate, probably the character I could most relate to, as he struggles to bring up his tearaway teenage daughter and reconcile his desire to retain traditional Zimbabwean family values with the modern, westernised world that she is growing up in. The younger Mathematician and his friends have wholly embraced the dual cultures, enjoying the Edinburgh club scene while getting involved in African politics and values. I found it harder to get into the mindset of the Maestro, a white Zimbabwean, who becomes wholly engrossed in reading, to the detriment of his happiness, sanity and ultimately life.
There is lots of turmoil - moments of happiness and contentment but also trauma and great sadness - but I felt more distanced from the characters than in the previous novel so I found it harder to empathise with them. In the final chapters, their lives and destinies intertwine but I became somewhat muddled, and felt rather confused by the final chapter, perhaps because I am totally ignorant when it comes to Zimbabwean/African politics or perhaps because the whole tone of the book seemed to shift.
Now that I've finished it, I amost want to go back and start reading it all over again, so that I can try to get under the skin of the characters and fully apreciate their separate narratives. It's ultimately a book about trying to find a sense of belonging, wherever you are and wherever you come from.
star rating : 4/5
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: amaBooks Publishers (1 Dec. 2014)
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to give my honest review.