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A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali [Hardcover]

Gil Courtemanche , Patricia Claxton
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Sep 2003
An immensely powerful, cathartic denunciation of poverty, ignorance, global apathy and media blindness. Kigali is both a poignant love story and a stirring hymn to humanity - an essential read for anyone interested in exceptional literature of lasting value. The swimming pool of the Mille-Collines hotel is a magnet for a privileged group of Kigali residents: aid-workers, Rwandan bourgeoisie, soldiers and assorted expatriates. Prostitutes and birds abound too. Among these patrons is the waitress Gentille, a beautiful Hutu often mistaken for a Tutsi, long admired by Valcourt, a Canadian journalist and film-maker. As the two test the water with a love affair, civil unrest in Rwanda makes insidious, inevitable progress.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; 1st Edition edition (15 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841954330
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841954332
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,085,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A Heart of Darkness for today." -- Yann Martel

"A moving and brave meditation on love and evil as well as a scathing indictment." -- New Internationalist

"Corrosive, denunciatory... and beautifully written." -- Le Devoir, Montreal

"Courtemanche’s style is one of superb control. No one is left unexamined." -- The Voice

"Do not expect it to leave you untouched." -- Jonathan Kaplan, author of The Dressing Station

About the Author

GIL COURTEMANCHE is an author and journalist in international and third-world politics. His recent non-fiction works are Quebec (1998) and Nouvelles douces coleres (1999). Un dimanche a la piscine a Kigali (2001) is his first novel. He also made an award-winning film called 'The Gospel of AIDS'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Every Sunday afternoon in Kigali, Rwanda, the pool at the Mille-Collines Hotel is a gathering spot for government workers, wealthy Rwandans engaged in various trades, aid workers, journalists, foreign visitors, and enterprising prostitutes, who gather to drink, exchange news, gossip among themselves, and participate in the "vaguely surrealistic play being acted out at the pool." The pool is, in many ways, a microcosm of life in Rwanda, illustrating the pressures and competing interests among various facets of society, all wanting to protect what they already have, and, they hope, to increase their power, influence, or wealth.

Using the real names of these real people, Gil Courtemanche, a former journalist in Rwanda himself, boldly recreates the problems which tear apart the fabric of society and lead to the genocide of almost a million Tutsi people in 1994. He exposes the corrupt government of Rwanda, the venal politicians, the self-serving Belgian security service, the ineffective public prosecutor, the weak Canadian general and the UN functionary who refuse permission to seize huge arms deposits, and the French, who not only sell arms to the terrorists but train them to be more efficient. Adding to the problems is the AIDS epidemic. Yet somehow, within this environment, a Canadian in his forties finds a fragile and beautiful love with a Rwandan in her twenties. Bernard Valcourt is a Radio Canada producer setting up a TV station in Rwanda. Gentille is a waitress at the hotel, a beautiful young woman who approaches Valcourt, begging him for help. A Hutu by birth, she looks like a Tutsi—tall, pale, and fine-featured, and no one, including Valcourt, really believes her Hutu ethnicity. Then the genocide begins.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 1 July 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It took me a while to get into this book as I worried I wasn't going to be able to remember who was who and therefore follow the story properly. I needn't have worried. The book is so beautifully written and translated which makes what you're reading about all the more horrific as the atrocities are reported in such a matter of fact manner. I feel the true story of the genocide is told (it's a novel but based on fact with real characters) but not in a sensationalist or judgemental way. You are appalled at some aspects of humanity then moved to tears by others - the kindness, love, generosity, loyalty and love of life in the face of imminent death really does make you realise how lucky you are. Everyone should read this book if only to understand the African people all the more and to remember the appalling genocide and its innocent victims.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting but brutal 23 Dec 2004
By dwaas76
This story takes place in Kigali (Rwanda) at the start of the civil war (for want of a better phrase). It is told from the viewpoint of Valcourt, a Canadian journalist who has made many local friends there. He has fallen in love with the country, and with a young woman, Gentille. He describes the events leading up to the massacre of the Tutsis from a personal point of view. In the introduction the author states that it is a lightly fictionalised story, and that most of the names and incidents described really did happen.
Despite of this is not a history book, and so it doesn't detail the events you saw on the news in a logical fashion. This book is all about human emotions: love, friendship, anger, hatred, apathy. This makes it an incredibly powerful book to read: it is one of the few books that has actually made me cry.
I would recommend this book to anybody, whether they have a particular knowledge of Rwanda or not. The story really makes you think about people and what they are capable of, both in a positive and a negative sense. Just don't read it on public transport (as I did) as people tend to look at you rather oddly!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genocide seen from within 28 Jun 2005
I read many books on the genocide in Rwanda, and I lived in Rwanda itself for a year, and yet reading this book I have the impression that I understood many important things for the first time.
What I appreciated in this book is the fact that, although the character is a Canadian, what he does most of the time is to report Rwandan people's point of view on the dynamics of the genocide. Instead of trying to mediate and explain in Western terms this phenomenon, which is what has been done by too many authors writing on the genocide, the author gives us the words of Rwandans, justly represented as both victims and authors.
Many times, scholars and writers have tried to represent the Rwandan genocide as if it had happened in a context similar to a Western one, thus making Rwandan people think and talk like Western people. In this way, the Western reader could sympathize with the victims, despise the perpetrators, and understand absolutely nothing on how such things could happen. In this book, instead, no easy readings are given of the genocide, nor can we always relate to the behaviour of victims and perpetrators, and yet I have the impression that this is an incredibly honest book, and a book which helps to understand, if one can ever understand a genocide.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book about the genocide in Rwanda 28 Aug 2006
Bernard Valcourt is a somewhat cynical Canadian who lives in a hotel in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. As a kind of an development aid worker he tries to set up a television channel and make a movie on AIDS. On Sundays he sits at the side of the swimming pool and writes down what he sees: pompous Rwandans, ex-pats whose lives are centred on booze and cheap sex. He falls in love with the beautiful Gentille, a Hutu woman who is build as a Tutsi, and together they see how Rwanda changes into a hell in which people are butchered by their neighbours simply because they are or appear to be Tutsi ("cockroaches" as they are called by the militant Hutu faction) or just because the military guys are drunk and feel like slaughtering somebody. They see how friends and acquaintances around them die, but refuse to believe that total madness will break out. In the end they stay too long.

This book is described by the author as a documentary rather than in novel, in which he wants to draw attention to the almost forgotten genocide (and also describes the spread and consequences of AIDS, another mass killer). At the time of the genocide I was in neighbouring Tanzania and even there we did not have an idea about the extent of the slaughter in Rwanda. A gruesome book that is very important, well written and it explains very clearly what happened in Rwanda in 1994.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh!
Haunting, terrible, beautiful, heart-breaking. None of those do this novel justice. Just read it & pass this truth on to everybody.
Published 2 months ago by Tabatha Stirling
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and Poignant
Seeing as it is twenty years ago since one of the worst genocides the world has ever witnessed. The book is especially poignant describing the horror and brutality of that time in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dean Carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting!
An amazing book! Full of real warmth and humour, but in no way avoiding some of the harrowing issues facing people in poorer countries, including the Genocide in Rwanda. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Susan E Ankcorn
4.0 out of 5 stars Painfully accurate and disturbing novel set during the Rwandan...
If this book were a film, it would carry warnings. It is shocking and horrible in parts, but that is absolutely how it should be. Read more
Published 9 months ago by BookWorm
5.0 out of 5 stars Graphic and horrific in places
Very well written but harrowing story based on real events.
Recommended by our book club as we all felt the same.
Published 13 months ago by Thomas Hewitt
5.0 out of 5 stars a moving and graphic novel
A stunning book. Difficult subject matter but the story flowed and the slowly unfolding genocide movingly covered. If only the world had listened
Published 14 months ago by D. Grierson
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible. overwhelming. devastating. powerful. profound.
it may not be fair for me to be writing this review yet as i am only half way through but i just needed to share the impact this book is having on me. Read more
Published 20 months ago by kat j
4.0 out of 5 stars bought for book club
Bought this book for my book club read of the month. When I learned what the subject matter was my heart sank. Would it be gory,sensationalised, depressing? Read more
Published on 29 Mar 2010 by Crystal Maze
5.0 out of 5 stars Great choice
This is a very good book, very easy to be read in its format, but difficult content.... but also very striking... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2010 by Adri Latin
1.0 out of 5 stars Graphic. Confused.
Very graphic. Terrible physical violence and graphic sex. Yet somehow self-rightous on it's own terms. Not offering a way forward. Read more
Published on 1 Jun 2009 by TwirlySue
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