- Paperback: 241 pages
- Publisher: Anchor Books; Reprint edition (May 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385720785
- ISBN-13: 978-0385720786
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 739,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Sky So Close Paperback – 1 May 2002
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"A lush first novel . . . both impressionistic and accomplished." --"The New York Times
"A memorable book about growing up between two cultures." --Alan Cheuse, "All Things Considered
""[V]ividly rendered . . . . [Q]uiet yet powerful." --"Booklist"
"[An] assured first novel . . . a valuable book . . . .What's most remarkable here is the buoyancy that Khedairi sustains even as her child heroine grows up." --"LA Times"
A lush first novel . . . both impressionistic and accomplished. --"The New York Times
A memorable book about growing up between two cultures. Alan Cheuse, "All Things Considered
" [V]ividly rendered . . . . [Q]uiet yet powerful. "Booklist"
"[An] assured first novel . . . a valuable book . . . .What's most remarkable here is the buoyancy that Khedairi sustains even as her child heroine grows up." --"LA Times""
From the Inside Flap
In this elegant, incisive debut, a young girl comes of age while aching for a sense of belonging. Daughter of an Iraqi father and an English mother, the unnamed narrator struggles with isolation both in the traditional Iraqi countryside where she's raised and at the Western school of music and ballet that her mother insists she attend. Though she finds some semblance of solace in dance, her trials increase when her family moves to Baghdad. Then comes the outbreak of war, which compels her to move with her mother to England, where her most pointed heartaches await. Gently poetic but emotionally unflinching, A Sky So Close is a daringly fresh look into the clash between East and West and into the soul of a woman formed by two cultures yet fully accepted by neither.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
The descriptions of her childhood are wonderfully observed - I used to live in Iraq and found it very evocative. The tensions between her parents, the experience of being 'between two cultures', growing up during the Gulf War - all described memorably.
I would prefer a stronger thread/plot - the writer is stronger on description than direction - but on the whole this is a very good novel. Read it!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Despite a few instances of forced/unconvincing dialogue (this might be the translator's fault), I generally found Khedairi's novel touching and engaging. It also has the added value of being an insider's look at Iraq, a country that is much in American/European news these days. The novel avoids explicit politics, but certainly the politics of gender and war permeate the story in any case, even though the narrator's very conscious disengagement helps her avoid clear political pronouncements.
The strength of the novel surely rests in the little details the girl notices about life in rural Iraq in the 70s and 80s, and in the portrayal of her warm relationship with her father. I remember hearing that cross-cultural experts often say that a single novel is better than reading ten non-fiction books about a place, if you really want to get to know it, and Khedairi's book would seem to foot that bill well. One quibble I have with this aspect, though, is that the narrator's extended family is strangely absent from the entire novel. Her Iraqi father has moved back to his home country with his British wife and child, but not a single relative figures in their lives at all? The same is true of her mother's non-existent English relatives when she moves to London with her late in the book. I think Khedairi does this to highlight the sense of isolation in the post-modern, post-colonial world, but I found this one aspect ill-conceived.
Her early childhood, in a bicultural and hopelessly disfunctional family, is set in a rural area of Iraq. Much of the narration is addressed to the father, with whom the small child has a warm relationship. How the child makes her way through difficulties of her family life, as well as comes to grips with the life/death cycles of human existence around her, gives this novel great power. This same tension - a difficult family life and even more difficult world situation - recurs in the second section of the book, set in England. The young woman struggles through a relationship with her mother, who must deal with widowhood and a grueling fight with cancer. Thrown into the mix are blighted love affairs, the Iran Iraq War, the First Gulf War and sanctions against Iraq. Horrors of the war are contrasted to sugary military communiques claiming the Iraqi forces are "succeeding."
How the child/woman observes and handles battles within and without is truly remarkable. I found the writing sensitive, evocative and refreshingly frank. An unusual and beautifully written novel.
This book takes us to a time when not just Iraq, but the whole Middle East was experiencing the most recent high-water mark of outside cultural influences. The closing of the dance school acts as an analogy to the gradual closing off of lines of cultural communication with the Middle East, of cultural isolation. It's an isolation imposed by the people there, not those outside, largely out of distrust and misunderstanding. All this will pass in time, but neither the Middle East nor the outside world will be able to regain the curiousity - rather than the suspicion - with which they regarded each other until the 1970's. Betool's book captures the end of that period and the transition to the current one.