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4.1 out of 5 stars
Paradise
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2005
'Paradise' is the coming of age story of Yusuf, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens in an East Africa on the brink of change with the Anglo-German conflict of the First World War looming. The young Yusuf is indentured to the rich trader Aziz, who Yusuf believes to be his uncle, in order to pay off his father's debts. As the story develops, Yusuf gets to experience being a part of the trading caravans that linked the diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups of the region during this bygone era. Against the background of a changing world, the maturing Yusuf must start to make some decisions on the direction of his own life....
'Paradise' contains a number of interesting characters: the good-natured banter between Sikh Harbans Singh (Kalasinga) and Muslim Hamid Suleiman is a real treat, as is the interaction between Yusuf and similarly indentured shopkeeper Khalil. Undoubtedly, the stand-out feature of 'Paradise' is Gurnah's beautiful poetic prose: every aspect of this novel was completely mesmerising from the first word to the last. 'Paradise' succeeds on many levels: as a coming of age story; commentary on slavery and colonialism; tale of travel and adventure in a past world; and story dealing with first-love and friendships. 'Paradise' was short-listed for the Booker back in '94 and richly deserves a continued wide readership. I hope to read more of Gurnah's work, and have bought Gurnah's critically acclaimed 'By the Sea' on the strength of my enchantment with 'Paradise'.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A finalist in 1994 for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award, Paradise hides major themes and ideas within the seemingly simple story of Yusuf, a twelve-year-old boy in rural East Africa whose father sells him to a trader to settle a debt. East Africa is in turmoil-on the verge of World War I and the fighting which eventually develops between the Germans in Tanzania and the British in Kenya. Cities are growing, populations are moving, merchants are trading and selling, and colonialists from many countries are trying to impose their own cultures.
When Yusuf is sold to his "uncle" Aziz, he leaves his remote rural village in what is now Tanzania and joins a trading caravan, traveling to the highlands and eventually on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior, discovering whole new worlds as he goes. In eight years of travel, he "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, and from his childish pleasure with a shiny coin to an adult's need for love.
Yusuf, as a young child/adolescent, is an obvious symbol of Tanzania itself at this stage of its history. Just as Yusuf must come of age, so also must the country as the various groups contending for influence must make choices about how much they will accept, reject, or adapt to outside influences. As Yusuf comes into contact with tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders, the reader observes all contending for influence, within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania.
Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Gurnah uses simple, poetic language to tell a story loaded with important social and political observations, conveying clearly and objectively the historical background of the country in which he was born. Dialogue is often filled with humor, and Yusuf becomes a real person, not a cardboard symbol. A novel which begins as a beautifully realized coming-of-age story, also becomes a story of adventure, social realism, and eventually love. Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2005
'Paradise' is the coming of age story of Yusuf, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens in an East Africa on the brink of change with the Anglo-German conflict of the First World War looming. The young Yusuf is indentured to the rich trader Aziz, who Yusuf believes to be his uncle, in order to pay off his father's debts. As the story develops, Yusuf gets to experience being a part of the trading caravans that linked the diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups of the region during this bygone era. Against the background of a changing world, the maturing Yusuf must start to make some decisions on the direction of his own life....
'Paradise' contains a number of interesting characters: the good-natured banter between Sikh Harbans Singh (Kalasinga) and Muslim Hamid Suleiman is a real treat, as is the interaction between Yusuf and similarly indentured shopkeeper Khalil. Undoubtedly, the stand-out feature of 'Paradise' is Gurnah's beautiful poetic prose: every aspect of this novel was completely mesmerising from the first word to the last. 'Paradise' succeeds on many levels: as a coming of age story; commentary on slavery and colonialism; tale of travel and adventure in a past world; and story dealing with first-love and friendships. 'Paradise' was short-listed for the Booker back in '94 and richly deserves a continued wide readership. I hope to read more of Gurnah's work, and have bought Gurnah's critically acclaimed 'By the Sea' on the strength of my enchantment with 'Paradise'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2010
I found this story rather sad, but in a good way. Evocative of the atmosphere of East Afica in that timespan, I found the main character did grip my interest enough to read this in very few sessions. Anyone who enjoys Africa stories and romance will enjoy this, even if it is tinged with disappointment.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
More than a coming-of-age story with an exotic setting, Paradise begins with 12-year-old Yusuf's sale by his father to settle a debt and ends with his decision at age twenty to escape his emotional imprisonment. Yusuf "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, from a child's pleasure with a coin to an adult's need for love.
With his "Uncle Aziz," he travels to the highlands of a merchant route and eventually, on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior. As Yusuf adapts both to the physical challenges of adolescence and to new mores demanded by the varied cultures in which he finds himself, the country, too, is coming of age and must either adapt to or reject outside influences.
Tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders all contend for influence, within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania. Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Tanzanian-born Gurnah keeps his sentence structure deceptively simple, and it sings. Mary Whipple
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on 11 July 2013
Clearly not paradise as we understand it. A different world to ours, with relatives given into slavery in return for debts.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 1997
More than a coming-of-age story with an exotic setting, Paradise begins with 12-year-old Yusuf's sale by his father to settle a debt and ends with his decision at age twenty to escape his emotional imprisonment. Yusuf "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, from a child's pleasure with a coin to an adult's need for love. With his "Uncle Aziz," he travels to the highlands of a merchant route and eventually, on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior. As Yusuf adapts both to the physical challenges of adolescence and to new mores demanded by the varied cultures in which he finds himself, the country, too, is coming of age and must either adapt to or reject outside influences. Tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders all contend for influence, within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania. Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Tanzanian-born Gurnah keeps his sentence structure deceptively simple, and it sings!
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2006
A nice coming of age story, but a little formulaic in my opinion, and fortunate upon the Booker prize favouritism towards exoticism and the post-colonial. I found this a good read, but a little tedious and plot-less in places. If you like Rushdie and the other 'exotic' Booker authors, you'll like this, but for me this just didn't really have enough 'bite' to make me want to re-read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 1998
The author succeeds in conveying a highly poetic vision of Islamic East African Culture, without embellishing it or denying its dark side. A beautiful read. I will certainly read more by this author and search for other Black Africans, moslem or not, who can teach me more about their fascinating culture.
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on 30 July 2014
posted as advertised and on time
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