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Miss Webster and Cherif Paperback – 7 May 2007

11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (7 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585909
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 788,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

`A compassionate and often surprising tale of redemption ...
lingers long after the last page has been turned' -- Sarah Hughes, Observer

`Bracing ... a wonderfully funny and surprising exploration of
cultural differences' -- Christina Koning, The Times

`Charming ... brilliantly observed and sparingly rendered' -- Caroline McGinn, Guardian

`Duncker writes with warmth and wit' -- Alastair Sooke, Daily Telegraph

`This is a gem of a novel; wise, witty, warming and exquisitely
polished' -- Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

From the Publisher

A intelligent, stylish page-turner. For fans of Ali Smith, A.L
Kennedy, Julian Barnes and Justin Cartwright's The Promise of Happiness.
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2007 - Best Book (Europe
and South Asia region).

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bookaholic babe on 31 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was induced to read this book by Sheila Hancock's endorsement on the front cover which describes it as: `Bittersweet, compelling and moving'. I'm sorry to say that I did not find this book any of those things. The main reasons being a poorly planned plot and a preponderance of one dimensional characters.

Miss Webster is a mixture of many literary Misses: Miss Marple, Miss Read, Miss Brodie and Miss Garnet, but she is not in the same league. She is a grumpy old woman par excellence and somewhat sadistic, too, such as in the scene where she burns an effigy of her sister. There is also an uncouth side to her which doesn't sit comfortably with the little we know of her.

Like Salley Vickers' Miss Garnet she was never a popular school teacher, and knows this. But whereas it is Miss Garnet's loss of her close companion which takes her to Venice, it is the advice of Miss Webster's doctor, which takes her to Morocco. Her doctor professes to be a cardiologist and a psychiatrist, and warns her that if she doesn't acknowledge what has happened (it appears that she has had a nervous breakdown) then she will die. Miss Webster then wobbles on two sticks to Morocco having recently been in hospital for several months. This is hardly plausible.

There is not enough good writing to vindicate the confused plot and weak characterization. Are we really expected to believe that a lady in her late sixties can push a car out of the sand in the desert when she has recently lost 3 stone in weight in hospital? She cannot have built her strength up that quickly!

Helping herself out of the slough of despond, by helping Chérif, offers Miss Webster some redemption, but because the whole story seems so unbelievable it fails to be compelling and moving.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By monica on 3 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was a disappointment. I'd read and enjoyed The Deadly Space Between and Hallucinating Foucault and had high hopes for this. But it seems hastily written, badly patched together, and altogether inconsequential.

The plot has been summarised; what hasn't been mentioned is that the major twist in it is given away in a terribly heavy-handed way half way through. And in places the writing was quite awkward, particularly in dialogues in which the interlocutors misunderstand each other: More than once Duncker repeatedly shifts point of view in these and repeatedly resorts to telling us what he thought she meant and what she thought he meant. Doesn't make for smooth reading.

Moreover, Duncker all too often settles for stereotypes: the discounted aging person who is to boot a plain-spoken indomitable type with beneath it all a good heart who lives in a village where (oh, my aching sides) residents are in dispute over whether a lane should be paved. British writers really do need to acknowledge that neither adorable tough old birds in tweeds nor petty village ructions are uniquely British. Nor, for my money, are they particularly endearing or humourous. Throw in a Romeo and Juliet romance, an understanding doctor who has himself suffered, a black chap of immense dignity, and a rejuvenation wrought by contact with youth and whizz bang that's pretty much the lot. The descriptions of Morocco are very good, but the Moroccan aspect of the story is all but irrelevant.

I suppose I'd give the book 2 1/2 stars for those descriptions, because Duncker seems to see (can't swear to this, because by this point I wasn't reading closely) another side to the Twin Towers attacks, and because while the book is sloppy it's never really stupid.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Craig HALL OF FAME on 27 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Webster, former French teacher at a girls' school, is a Miss Jean Brodie well past her prime. Ordered abroad to North Africa after a devastating nervous breakdown which has left her half-dead and needing sticks to walk, she has become "everything she most despised: querulous, forgetful, indecisive." Her suffering is brilliantly described, but the Moroccan desert, and the people she meets at a luxury hotel there begin to restore her to herself, a process furthered when the hotelier's exquisitely beautiful son, Cherif, appears on her doorstep back in Little Blessingham.

Who, or what, is Cherif? Set in the year after 9/11, this question becomes increasingly pressing in what is both a mystery story and a comedy of manners. Miss Webster defends him against all comers partly because it is in her bloody-minded nature to do so, and partly out of a genuine, growing affection. Cherif - gentle, respectful, undemanding - gets a place studying Maths at the local university, and becomes her lodger when turned down by mean-spirited locals. A natural anarchist who believes that all forms of government should be blown sky-high, Miss Webster is alert to her own possible deception by a terrorist. Beautiful Cherif is, however, someone to share her extreme loneliness, to introduce her to her first rock concert, Sky TV and fasting at Ramadan.

The clash between English and Berber culture, described in Duncker's lucid, elegant prose, is funny and touching, ranging as it does from Cherif's bewilderment at motorway signs telling them to use the "hard shoulder" to his belief that Miss Webster, like Miss Marple, is unmarried because she was a lady detective.
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