This post is long overdue; I actually finished We Need New Names a couple of months ago. Unfortunately a couple of months of pregnancy nausea left me feeling demotivated and uninspired. However, I am starting to feel vaguely human once more and keen to get back into the blogging swing of things.
This book is novel (see what I did there?) in the way it deals with issues facing Zimbabwe. While largely a fictitious story, told from the perspective of the protagonist Darling, a lot of what happens can be traced back to actual events which have taken place in the country during the dictatorial rule of Robert Mugabe. Although the country is never actually named it is not hard to decipher where Darling is living due to the language used, events which take place and the descriptions of the culture around her.
What I found most striking about the book was the number of times I asked myself, ‘Did that really happen?’ Bulewayo has skillfully used the fictional genre to draw attention to many of the atrocities that have been allowed to take place in Zimbabwe. I only realised how much of it was based on real-life events when I started reading Ben Freeth’s When Governments Stumble and began to recall the things I had read about in We Need New Names. It is a clever novel worthy of its Man Booker Prize nomination.
If you are interested in what life might feel like for someone living in modern day Zimbabwe, We Need New Names is a decent read – at times enjoyable but always accompanied by an underlying unease.