14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Harrowing Story: Awful Prose,
This review is from: Mornings in Jenin (Paperback)It's important that this popular novel has brought the injustice and suffering of ordinary Palestinian families to a wider audience but it's no masterpiece. It's not even well written. In places there's too much telling rather than showing. The plot line featuring the stolen brother ending up on the opposite side of the religious divide is pure Jeffrey Archer and the reunion is an anti-climax featuring simplistic emotional responses when they should be hugely conflicting and complex.
The dialogue is generally unconvincing and the prose veers from flat to overblown.
This is a scene where Dalia has a miscarriage and a village woman bad-mouths her to Basima.
"'Out of my house!' Basima threw the woman to the ground and went to Dalia. `No more mourning, my Dalia. Let's breed roses for a new beginning,' she said, coaxing her daughter in law from the clench of her own jaw and ending that episode of grief.'"
The sex scenes are excruciatingly bad, so let's not go there.
The perspective occasionally switches disjointedly from first to third person. The style is bitty. The narrative is clumsily and intrusively interspersed with poetry; songs; and an eclectic array of extracts from Khalil Gibran to Robert Fisk, then bizarrely, in the final pages, blogs from a website which turns out to be the home page for the book. Postmodern meta fiction or crass publicity device? The latter I'm afraid.
There is a fair amount of carnage, which given her subject matter is perhaps required to make people aware of the tragic human cost of this conflict. Real people who were killed, as depicted in Fisk's journalism, are appropriated by Abulhawa and transformed into the two-dimensional characters she had created in her story. This felt wrong. The excerpts from Fisk are very powerful but his incisive prose only serves to highlight the author's weaknesses
The cover is appealing and this looked like something I could really get my teeth into but I was disappointed. Good marks for moral purpose but could-do-better for literary merit.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jun 2011 20:57:08 BDT
Mr. D. T. Marchesi says:
The over-emphasis on aesthetic defects which you look for and, naturally, find in the book is distracting. The book is not simply an aesthete's delight , and opinions may well be divided on whether it stands comparison as a literary artefact with ... well, with what ? Contemporary writing , in my reading, often seems a little "rough around the edges" maybe among US authors more than those in the UK. I would have thought that three stars would have been a more appropriate rating even for someone with refined literary tastes.Rather than surface polish, one may admire shining substance in a book to which the author has given much of her soul.
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jun 2011 21:29:55 BDT
Tamara L says:
Your remarks are interesting and thought provoking, and yes, perhaps I could have been more sympathetic. I have given 3 stars to some not very good books. It's hard to be consistent. I wouldn't claim to have refined literary tastes but I do read a lot of contemporary fiction and there is a lot of good quality stuff out there. My problem with this was I felt that it was over-hyped for something so badly written, and ultimately it is a novel and (I feel) should be judged on that basis. I wasn't looking for surface polish, just some craft from the writer. In terms of comparisons, if you put this book side by side with Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love about the civil war in Sierra Leone which I have read recently, then Forna does heart and soul as well as producing something with literary merit. I genuinely did want to like this book but thought it was second rate and a little shallow (sorry!). I would be interested in reading more fiction about this conflict if someone can point me in the right direction.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 14:33:23 GMT
S. P. Rumsey says:
May I suggest you read some non fiction. "Holy Land, Unholy War" would be a fine start.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 15:46:47 GMT
Tamara L says:
Thanks for the suggestion. I will follow it up.
In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 14:54:25 BDT
Anything on the conflict by the late great Edward Said is highly recommended.
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