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Children of the Revolution Paperback – 22 May 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (22 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099502739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502739
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A quietly accomplished debut novel... Despite, or perhaps because of, the attritions of his years in exile, Sepha has remained astonishingly tender. In the end, it is this human warmth that triumphs" (Guardian)

"Brilliant... a courageous and engaging novel" (Daily Telegraph)

"With faultless pitch and tone, this elegiac first novel packs great matters into its modest span" (Independent)

"A quietly brilliant portrait of immigrant life... Children of the Revolution reads like an Ethopian variation on The Great Gatsby. Remarkably it's not diminished by this comparison" (Financial Times)

"A rich and lyrical story of displacement and loneliness. I was profoundly moved by this tale of an Ethiopian immigrant's search for acceptance, peace, and identity... Mengestu makes us feel this tortured soul's longings, regrets, and in the end, his dreams of meaningful human connection" (Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner)

Book Description

A haunting debut by gifted young Ethiopian-American author and winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2007

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sofia on 7 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
This beautifully written study of emigration and the consequent hopes, fears and disorientation tells the tale of Sepha Stephanos, an Ethiopian refugee who fled after his father's murder to America. Seventeen years later he is in Washington DC living from day to day, running a neglected grocery store in a rough neighbourhood.

Mengistu paints a very tender picture of Stephanos, a man who never wanted to come to America, as he says, "I did not come to America to find a better life. I came here running and screaming with the ghosts of an old one still firmly attached to my back." He spends his days escaping into the world of fiction and regular evenings with his two African friends musing over Africa and its troubles. When Judith (a former University lecturer) and her half African daughter Naomi move in next door to him, for the first time since he arrived in the US, he has a chance to make American friends. Is this his chance to finally find himself and a purpose to his immigrant life?

Mengistu's novel is a real gem. Winner of the Guardian First Book Award, it tells a very poignant tale of isolation, of loss and of the difficulty of reconciling any kind of hope for the future with pain, guilt and fear from the past. Thought-provoking and touching, it's a really good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pigwin on 11 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
The narrator of this beautifully written and evocative story, Sepha Stephanos, fled Ethiopia following the death of his father at the hands of the Red Terror. The story opens 17 years following Sepha's immigration to the US, in Washington DC where he now runs his own rundown store in a fairly rough neighbourhood. He has two staunch friends i.e. Kenneth from Kenya"the engineer" and Joe "the poet" from the Congo; all three were full of hope and optimism about their futures when they first arrived in the US but are now all disillusioned with the American Dream.

These three lonely African exiles endeavour to sustain each other as they try to break with their native country's violent past and attempt to build new lives in their adopted country.

Joe's suburb is being cleaned up and rebuilt to accommodate middle-class people with dire consquences for some of the locals and when the well-off Judith moves into the neighbourhood with her daughter, Naomi, Joe begins to make friends with them and is especially taken with Naomi, a very intelligent but troubled child.

Mengistu's prose is mellifluous and beautiful and perfectly conveys what it must mean to be an exile and his characters are finely drawn; I came to care about all three exiles but especially Sepha, a gentle and engaging man facing trials we can only imagine with quiet dignity and strength.

I enjoyed every word in this novel and was terribly reluctant to let Sepha go as I wanted to continue to see how his life and the lives of his two friends evolved.

I highly recommend this thought-provoking book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Rottweiller Swinburne on 20 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure what to expect of this, the first novel of an unknown writer (pace Christine Keeler - well, he would be, wouldn't he?). My admittedly very limited experience of writers from the third world, and specifically Africa, has been generally rather unsatisfying, involving as it has works of "Magical Realism" which fall flat as a pancake for me. However, this was a fine work which I found immensely satisfying. Mengestu is one of the most skilful writers I've ever come across, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

It deals, briefly, with Sepha Stephanos, a young(ish) Ethiopian who fled his war-ravaged country 17 years before and who now runs a general store in Washington D.C. He is a rather feckless, dreamy character who spends his life in a state of constant bemusement, observing life rather than taking part, and running his fly-blown shop in a run-down part of D.C. as an intermittent hobby, open ten hours one day and ten minutes the next. He has two African friends scarcely more in touch with reality than him. They meet regularly, drink a lot, and play games, such as "Where I'm going to be in ten years time", and "Name the Revolution" (the first involving inflated, almost fantastical notions of becoming engineers or university lecturers, the second a sort of Name-That-Tune, where one will mention an African dictator and the others will have to identify the year and country of his revolt). One day he meets Judith and her daughter Naomi, and as the possibility of something more than living in a hopeless fantasy-land approaches, he endeavours to engage with Life...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Harris on 27 May 2009
Format: Paperback
An affecting story of refugees from three African countries who have found unfulfilling and unrewarding occupations in Washington DC. Despite, or perhaps because of, their relative material impoverishment and drinking habits, they fail to integrate into mainstream US society, but nevertheless maintain rich and dignified personal integrity. A brilliant and excellently written insight into the lives and aspirations of those on the margins of society.
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