Top critical review
*I no longer believe my father"
on 29 February 2016
This Niger-based novel opens with Haoua, an abused 12-year-old third wife looking back on her earlier life.
And as the narrative begins, five years earlier, it would seem that Haoua's prospects are good as a sponsored child through a charity programme. Letters between her and her Irish 'family' form part of the novel - yet these cheerful little epistles show their writers have little grasp of the recipient's life. And Haoua's hopes for an education and a career are not to be so easily attained...
I enjoyed this novel but felt that the text sometimes felt as if the author was determined to incorporate every aspect of Niger for the reader's edification - fauna, funerals, AIDS, a look at the capital, the desert, the military, the political situation, weddings, funerals... There was also a road-trip that I think would have benefitted from being cut. And the lengthy letter that Haoua writes to an American volunteer worker at the end just didn't feel like the outpourings of a traumatized teen but rather a report that the author himself might have submitted to Amnesty International.
And yet the author manages to create touching moments too: when her long-absent soldier brother comes to spend a few days with his family - "For a moment I observed them both as if they were strangers, or actors in a movie; these two people whom I loved more than life itself, reflecting each other's smiles in that way that only a mother and her child can. It was a moment I wish I could have captured somehow - frozen it in time forever: not as a photograph, but as a tiny physical fragment".