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Promising First Novel
on 8 April 2012
Maia is on the rebound from a long standing affair and jumps at the chance of being the personal assistant to the Historian in Marrakech, Morocco. She soon finds herself in the Medina, living a rather claustrophobic existence which is split between her tasks for her employer, her art, and her social life which revolves around the Grand Tazi.
The Grand Tazi is a magnet for the various ill assorted expatriates, who are drawn together because they are expatriates, but have little else in common. There are some interesting characters who drift in and out of this circle, most of whom have their own, rather doubtful agenda. They are Maia's acquaintances and people she spends time with, but none of them are close enough to be regarded as friends and that includes Armand who she is drawn to from the outset. In fact their motives remain unclear for most of the time. This is particularly so for the Historian, who is only referred to as the Historian throughout. He is a shady and enigmatic character who seems to be constantly on the edge of the action.
Meanwhile Maia reacts passively to this environment, almost in a drifting, dreamlike state for a lot of the time and particularly later in the story. She is clearly naive and has no real appreciation of where her actions and her casual attitude may possibly lead. Having said that she seems almost accepting of anything which occurs and on the only occasion she can be truly said to have been introduced to something against her will, she seems to bear little resentment. Whilst her life in Marrakech cannot be said to turn out well, one could certainly imagine much worst outcomes as a result of her naivety.
A particularly strong aspect of this book is the way the author conveys the sights, sounds and smells of Marrakech and this is so well done, that the reader almost feels like they are walking through the streets. The same goes of the Grand Tazi and you are left with a very clear impression of the rather rundown courtyard where these people spend their time.
I did not personally think the ending was as strong as what went before. However, the narrative throughout is crisp and clear and involves the reader and this is one of those books which holds the attention right from the start. All in all a promising first novel.