Feb. 12th, 2007

aekastar: (read and write!)
The other night, I completed In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar.

Back in the summer, I heard about this book through a blog which linked the Guardian article. I was, at first, disappointed to see it was only available at amazon UK at that time, but when I saw it'd arrive at the end of January over here, I claimed it to be the first novel I'd read and it technically was (I read some manga, a graphic novel and a book of poetry, but it is the first actual novel). I could've gotten it through amazon UK like one of the reviewers on amazon, but I liked the cover art better for the U.S. one (hush).

The book itself is about a 1979 Libya told through a nine-year-old child's eyes, but interspersed with the 24-year-old he grew up to be exiled in Cairo. usually I'm not big on political novels, but this isn't at the forefront. as the main article suggests, it wouldn't make much sense without the political backbone. the main point of the story seems to be the relationship between him and his mother and having to live in an oppressive country; how things began to change when he found that his father wasn't on one of his business trips, but instead in a house with green shutters on Martyr's Square hanging a red towel.. when his best friend's father was taken and later executed... how a hero won't come in to save them all; how he can't rescue his mother from her past.

I think my favourite part of the book was the mulberry scene where he keeps saying over and over again how the angels brought them from heaven behind god's back... he returns to that train of thought throughout the novel. after handing his baba a mullberry a day after the beating, baba spits the partially chewed berry on the ground seconds later.

There are parts of the characterisation of the boy which I didn't like such as the scene where he betrays his best friend (yeah, he felt remorse, but still...). he also bullies a homeless man a couple times; hitting him with rocks and later pushing him off the pier when he can't swim. he even accidently hits a hemophiliac! the least understandable part was handing the man in the white car the book he saved from the burning. sure, maybe he had some good intentions, but some of it just seemed detestable while reading.

Despite all that, it was well written and worth the read. I even stopped here and there to look up info on the various issues.

My next book in queue is What is the What by Dave Eggers. I'm sticking to Africa, it seems, though then I'm hopping back to that Gabriel Garcia Marquez autobiography which I never finished after that to see if it's a faster read after some time.

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