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A Girl Made of Dust Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007259042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007259045
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 546,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘I adored “A Girl Made of Dust”. It touched my heart in so many ways. When I picked it up to read I was compelled to finish – I could not put it down. It was at once tender and tragic and Nathalie Abi-Ezzi wonderfully evoked that transient aspect of childhood where everything is possible. It is a book that begs to be re-read. The first time I rushed through to get to the end and the second time I slowed down to more fully appreciate the lovely language and authentic setting that Nathalie Abi-Ezzi created. “A Girl Made of Dust” is one of those books you can't help but think about long after you finish. A truly remarkable story.’ Patricia Wood, author of ‘Lottery’, shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize

‘Captivating. A subtle, pertinent depiction of civilian life in the midst of bewildering conflict.’ Catherine Taylor, Guardian

‘A timely evocation of civilian suffering underneath the ubiquities of war…Heart-breaking and profound.’ Sunday Business Post

‘A moving insight into brutal conflict.’ Financial Times

‘Unnervingly real and gripping. Abi-Ezzi skilfully introduces the reader to a life in fear of bombs and stray bullets, as well as how new hope can be born from affliction.’ Ingrid Lamprecht, Socialist Review

About the Author

Born in 1972 in the Metn region of Lebanon, Nathalie and her family moved to England in 1983 when Israel invaded Lebanon. She won the Radio 4 Dotdotdot short story competition in 2001. She is the author of 'The Double in the Fiction of R.L. Stevenson, Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier' (2003) and has co-edited various books for Usborne.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sofia on 22 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
Nathalie Abi-Ezzi's novel is not your traditional war novel - there's not much first-hand drama here and you never see the military. Yet from an apparently insubstantial starting point, this novel says more about war than many more graphic tales.

Set in a village outside Beirut, "A Girl Made of Dust" follows the escalating conflict in Lebanon through the eyes of Ruba, a young girl. The story starts slowly, depicting Ruba's life in a family already broken by conflict. Ruba's father spends his days at home; he no longer opens his shop and barely notices his children or the huge emotional and financial strain his inactivity is putting on his family. Ruba has no idea why her father is like that or why her mother and grandmother are so sad but desperately wants to make everything right. With childish innocence she latches onto religion, custom, superstition, anything she part overhears to explain or heal her father.

This becomes a beautifully intimate novel: A finely drawn picture of how war encroaches upon civilian lives. The book is progressively more moving as it shows how slowly but surely war destroys people and any opportunities they have to lead a normal life. Abi-Ezzi really catches the child's view of life, the attention to odd details, the innocence, the miscomprehension of adult behaviour, the belief in good and bad. She also fills the novel with heart-breakingly moving episodes; such as the tea with a neighbour soon to leave Lebanon, or the local children's games, changed to incorporate the violence they've become accustomed too.

Ultimately, this is a great read, beautifully written. You won't come away knowing much more about Lebanon or the battles that have raged there, but you will come away with a better sense of how precious peace is.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anton Cox on 10 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Girl Made of Dust is a coming of age story set in the hills above Beirut. The location is very nicely evoked, and the encroaching war (though it is always present in the background) does not overpower the plot. The feeling of a young child observing the world is mostly very well done, and the story is strong enough to draw you in.
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Format: Paperback
It has been my second acquaintance with Nathalie Abi-Ezzi’s beautifully written book. On the back of a currently unravelling conflict in my home country the story this time has felt very different, which prompted me to write this review.
The author’s very well composed narration of the events in war-torn Lebanon seen though the yeas of little Ruba, read to me first as an autobiographical tale of the author’s own childhood experience, which she skilfully presented with an intrigue of a family secret. It was a very emotional read at the time, forcing one to live through the experiences of a little girl who is trying to come to terms with the war and many horrible ways it affected her family’s lives and the lives of those around them in a peaceful village near Beirut.
Not until this second time have I felt though how personal this book is to me now, and I am certain will be to millions of people around the world affected one way or another by military conflicts continuing to spark up often for reasons impossible to comprehend to an adult, let alone an 8-year old child. Terrifying consequences any war brings to lives of ordinary people, devastating their homes, destroying relationships, diminishing beliefs in what seemed so solidly right only yesterday, depriving children of such basics as feeling happy and safe is something that’s been extremely well described by the author in this book. The smells, sounds and bitter feeling of despair at many things wrong will remain with Ruba for the rest of her life, but there is hope, and a firm belief is something that drives her determination to break the curse cast by the war and make herself and her family happy again.
An excellent and hard to put down read, second time round.
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Format: Paperback
It may take a little while to adjust to the narrative voice of `A girl made of dust', but it's worth persevering.

The story is set in 1980s Lebanon, in a mainly Christian village high on the hills above Beirut, just as the war is gathering pace. Told from the point of view of an eight-year-old girl, Ruba, it takes some time to piece together what is happening - in many cases you have to read between the lines - but this accurately reflects the narrow perception of a child.

Most of all, Ruba is concerned about her father, who has sunk into almost debilitating depression. She has no real idea why. And as the conflict accelerates, other members of her family, her neighbours and schoolfriends are drawn into the slipstream of events - often unwittingly, unwillingly, inextricably...

Writing from a young child's perspective is a limiting device. But it's also a good way to show rather than tell some of the subtleties of the adults' reactions to what is happening. Ruba's stoical yet troubled grandmother is especially well drawn, as is her uncle, who is engaged in secretive business that draws him back into the maelstrom of Beirut itself despite the intense risks involved. His `work' presents one of the most interesting moral dilemmas in the book.

The increasingly unsavoury behaviour of various people from different religious and social backgrounds also raises questions. How far does conflict dehumanize `civilised' people? Is there really any difference between us just because we worship different prophets or drive an expensive car and live in a big house?

As a portrait of a family touched by war it is skillfully, deftly drawn. There is some excellent descriptive writing that brings the Lebanon and its fascinating people to life. And although in many ways this book skates along the surface (or around the periphery) of the Beruit conflict, it also left me with a curiosity to find out more.
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