Nothing to be Nervous About

by nigelcrowe

“I was not sorry when my brother died.” Right out of the gates, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s aptly titled “Nervous Conditions” is a riveting tale from start to finish. A convincing, albeit fictional, first person narrative of a young girl named Tambudzai growing up in then Rhodesia, “Nervous Conditions” keeps the reader glued to its pages and absorbing the gallons of social commentary with ease.
While a Bildungsroman by definition (that is, a story of growing up), this novel presents its readers with much more than a coming-of-age story. Dangarembga’s skillful use of the first person perspective allows for a detailed account of the development of the protagonist’s psyche as it is influenced by the tempestuous environment around her. Being pressed with the more egalitarian role of women in the western culture with which she is being educated, readers feel along with Tambudzai as she attempts to find equilibrium with her repressive Shona upbringing. The cultural alienation that occurs as a result of the disconnection from traditional values but inability to fully assimilate into western culture is a key theme brought up in many characters throughout the novel, begging readers to ask themselves, to what ultimate end did our governments provide these people with an education?
Thought provoking, critical, and just downright engaging, I would suggest “Nervous Conditions” to anyone who is up for a moral challenge but not necessarily a challenge of their attention span. A good read in every sense of the phrase, Tsitsi Dangarembga gets my full appraisal.

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