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Morocco through fiction. Perfectly captured!
on 5 April 2013
Where to start with this sumptuously descriptive novel dripping with lusciousness and foreboding? The background setting of Morocco is an intrinsic character that fluently comes to life through Lawrence Osborne's writing. Whether it is the landscape, the characters, the ambient temperature, the fossils or the people - both local Moroccans and Westerners whose lifestyles and values pit themselves against each other - everything is bathed in a terracotta hot red, set against the desert and mountains of the country. The food is richly described from the McVitie's crackers slathered with majoun (a mix of kif, dried fruits, nuts and sometimes fig jam) to the couscous "sweetened with sugar and lines of melted cinammon" to "almond breewats" all washed down with Santenay and Tempier Rose.
Jo and David Henniger are motoring down to the ksour, owned by Dally Rogers Margolin and his partner Richard Galloway at Azna, with the prospect of a weekend of hedonism with the rich and powerful from around Europe and America, billed as "the best party East of Marrakech". It is a dark night, the road gives off its accumulated daytime heat, the stark shadows rise up against the mountains. Suddenly, David, with a high level of alcohol in his blood, hits one of two locals, Driss, and kills him on the spot. His companion Ismael heads for the hills as the Hennigers step out of the car to assess the damage.The story expands from there as the cultures of the party people from Europe and America, and the indingenous peoples, the Berbers, weave an unforgiving path. The impact of the tragic incident reverberates into the hedonistic thrum of the party weekend, and forgiveness and revenge vie with each other, as the individuals all respond in their own unique way to events.
The author clearly knows the country really well and the research peppers the pages of the novel. We learn, for example. that fossil mining is a huge industry in the country and each tribe deals in different and specific fossil-types - only the black market dealers cross the lines.