Book Review: Welcome To Our Hillbrow, by Phaswane Mpe, The first two Chapters

Posted on February 17, 2010


One word; wow! This book is one piece of work. Let me explain; it is absolutely easy to read and very enjoyable as a work of fiction, so it is not a piece of work in that sense. I mean it is a piece of work in that it takes you on one hell of a rough journey around Hillbrow, twisting and turning, giving you a glimpse into the lives of a few characters and then boom! Death and Suicide. In that sense, it is pretty interesting. The first chapter, Hillbrow, The Map, paints a vivid picture of this strange place, Hillbrow neighborhood of post-apartheid Johannesburg,  a surburb in  full of its conflicting, confused and utterly jumbled up life. Yet, if you think about it, it is just another story of life within a neighborhood in the suburbs of a large African city. A life that is very common in my opinion. If you come to think about the mix of people here; there are the “special ones” (the locals) with their high sense of moral ground; then there are the Makwerekwere (immigrants), who are constantly trying to stay under the radar, yet get blamed by the locals for all the problems in this neighborhood; and then there are those at the outskirts of Hillbrow (the whites and their kitchen workers), who even though live in lavish houses, still cant escape the brunt of crime from robbers who are keen to redistribute the wealth that they posses. Beneath all this helter skelter of Hillbrow, lie several huge monsters that are gradually getting revealed with every passing page; Love, Betrayal, Seduction, Suicide, Xenophobia, Urban Violence, and the King of them all AIDS. This book takes you on one dizzying journey through a very rough South African neighborhood. I wonder what waits in the coming chapters…

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