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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it!, 11 April 2010
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
I have just finished this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it is a very long book it kept you interested and it was a page turner. I loved the way that the main story was interspersed by almost short stories in themselves which really captured the characters and atmosphere of Damascus at that time. Sometimes I would wonder how everything would come together but it did beautifully. I noticed on one of the previous reviewers did not like the amount of sex in the book. Whilst I probably would not give this book to my 80 year old mother in law, I did not mind it at all - in a way it is refreshing as sex is a part of life (although some of it in the book was a tad unusual to say the least) and other cultures are more open than our own in discussing it or writing about it. A magical book which I could see myself revisiting in a couple of years.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone interested in Middle Eastern literature should ensure they read it, 8 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
The Dark Side of Love is epic in every sense of the word.

The 850 pages are imposing.
The writing quality surpasses the ordinary.
The narrative encompasses an impressive period of time, following three generations as political change forces their lives in different directions.
There is a hero who battles against adversity, capturing your heart.

The Dark Side of Love is set in Syria and follows two feuding families from 1907 through to 1970. The central characters are Rana and Farid, a couple who fall in love, but are unable to be together due to the generations of hatred between their rival clans.

The gulf between the Mushtak and Shanin families was deep. Later, no one could say just how their hostility had begun, but even the children of both families were convinced that they would sooner make friends with the devil than one of the enemy clan.

The first 300 pages of this book were slow going. New characters seemed to be introduced on each page and I found it almost impossible to keep track of who everyone was. In the end I gave up trying to work it out and approached each chapter as if it were a short story. This worked really well and I found myself treated to numerous Syrian myths and legends. I found the details of their lives fascinating and so although I couldn't tell you who half the people were I never lost interest in the book. It took me over two months to read the first 400 pages, but I'm pleased that I took the time to absorb their world as I think it made the second half of the book even better.

At the centre of the book the narrative became more conventional and the focus shifted to Farid. This increased the pace of the book and I managed to complete the second half in just two weeks. Farid finds himself in many terrible situations, both political and personal, but the lengths that he goes to to try to be with Rana are heartbreaking. Their love was so strong and realistic that this has become one of my favourite romances.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a happy book though - there is a lot of violence and suffering. I'd describe it as a cross between A Fine Balance and Palace Walk: Cairo Trilogy 1 (The Cairo Trilogy) The complex political and religious situations in Syria are woven with more personal stories of families trying to arrange favourable marriages for their children or find appropriate jobs. I learnt so much from reading this book, but I'm going to re-read it as I'm sure that would reveal many more layers.

This isn't an easy read, but it is well worth the effort. I think it is a literary masterpiece and that everyone interested in Middle Eastern literature should ensure they read it.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive and monumental, 30 April 2012
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
Spanning eight hundred and ninety-six pages and three sprawling generations of Syrian families, 'The Dark Side Of Love' is a massive, monumental paean to passion in all its tragic glory.
Decades in its creation, Schami's work consists of three hundred and four separate fragments ordered together in the same intricate manner as the mosaics which adorn the Arab world's most splendid mosques. 'Each of these pieces tells a story, and when you have read them they show you their own secret colours,' says the author in his afterword, relaying the vivid dream he says finally presented him with the concept for this narrative form. 'As soon as you have read all the stories, you will see the picture.'
Seldom have books this long and exhaustive remained so utterly compelling from the first page to the last. Schami has not left as much as a single tile out of place.
'The Dark Side Of Love' starts with a murder and ends with its solution. But this is no detective novel. This is first and foremost a book about Syrian love, unfurled in startling vignettes of tragic, forbidden trysts that sprinkle its pages like the sugar-coated fennel seeds which fall onto the streets of Damascus one night as if by magic.
Two strangers gallop into the remote, mountain village of Mala in 1907, fugitives from a brutal arranged marriage, and inadvertently begin a feud between the Mushtak and Shahin clans which will spill the blood of generations to come. Some seventy years later in Damascus, the teenaged Farid Mushtak will meet and fall in love with a girl whom fate cruelly dictates is a Shahin. Their choice is stark: to deny their passion, or face death.
Embracing a breathtaking array of characters, but managing to retain a clarity characteristic of so much translated Arabic fiction, Schami proceeds to fill in the gap of those three-score years, revealing why Farid and Rana's nascent love is doomed.
Schami's work is in itself a love letter to a Damascus which in the course of his book survives the turmoil of occupation by the French, the terror of a never-ending series of brutal dictators and their Secret Service goons, short-lived union with Egypt and the birth of Israel. Yet so richly painted is Schami's picture of Damascene life that through all its turmoil and tragedies, the city never loses its allure.
The novel develops through countless doomed affairs and periods of suppression, both individual and collective. In the 'Book Of Laughter', there are beautiful anecdotes about Damascene childhood; in the 'Book Of Hell', a nightmarish portrayal of life in Syria's secret prisons. It involves an extraordinary amount of sex, but this is not the kind of gratuitous or perfunctory copulation prevalent in so many philosophical modern novels - there are no 'Bad Sex Awards' here: the sex in this book is straight-forward and stallion-esque, which only the most tiresome prude would deny is not entirely in keeping with Schami's exploration of passion's extremes: the price for such ecstasy is often certain death.
Schami's prose is simple and his outlook avowedly realist: beyond the occasional dream, he squeezes the whims of fate and fantasy from life itself. This realism makes 'The Dark Side Of Love' deeply affecting: haunting, heart-breaking and undeniably pertinent given the tragedy centred on Schami's beloved city today.
Others have been right to question Schami's choice of title for his book, for this is not simply about love's 'dark side', but about love in all its glory - the kind of love that conquers all, even death.

An old storyteller tells his rapt audience:

"A woman once loved a man with a large wart on his nose. She thought him the most handsome man in the world. Years later, however, she noticed the wart one morning. 'How long have you had that wart on your nose?' she asked. 'Ever since you stopped loving me,' said the man sadly."

Some say this is the great Syrian novel. I haven't read enough Syrian novels to venture an opinion beyond declaring it almost unfathomable that many, if any, Syrian novels could possibly be this good. It's the kind of book you truly wish will never end, and mercifully it takes a long time to do just that. Like the mosaics in the mosque, its intricate colours will shine out for generations to come.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars book, 2 April 2013
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
Arrived promptly and exactly as described. Very happy and would be happy to recommend to others and would do business with again
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark side of love, 21 Mar 2013
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dark side of love.it was very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it .For me the book had all the ingredients needed for a good read.yes I would recommend to friends with similar taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book, 1 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
good book, brilliant condition, fast delivery, its quite a hefty book and long detailed story so would reccommend setting aside time to ensure your really absorb it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Syria's answer to Wild Swans, 19 April 2014
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
Syrian history and culture captured through three generations, never have love and hate been so beautifully pitted against one another
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4.0 out of 5 stars Long novel, but definitely holds your attention!, 31 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Dark Side of Love (Mass Market Paperback)
Although this is a whopper of a book, somehow I never felt tired of reading it or felt like I had to put it down. There are stories within stories some that tie in with the main story and others that are just a sideline. A very entertaining read.
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The Dark Side of Love
The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami (Mass Market Paperback - 5 Jan 2010)
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