Because the Book Fair is here. And as an added bonus, if you take along a kid you get $30-50 worth of vouchers PER child to spend inside. So there are advantages to having 3 kids afterall!
In what I believe to be an admirable show of restraint (considering they were practically giving them away), here’s what I came home with.
Taxi by Khaled Alkhamassi. A novel which tells the story of the uprising in Egypt as seen through the eyes of taxi drivers; a brilliant concept which appealed to me immediately since I remember only too well how the pulse of Buenos Aires (from economic crises to theories on military dictatorships football matches) seemed to flow in and through the taxi drivers themselves. The inside cover of “Taxi” says “I dedicate this book to the life that dwells in the words of simple people. May it swallow up the void that has haunted us for many years”.
Mornings in Jenin, by Susan Abulhawa (and yes, that’s an average rating of 4.28 based on 790 reviews which I can assure is HIGH). It’s a bankable plot - as Palestine is carved up in 1948 making refugees of thousands, a mother is separated from her 6 month old baby. That child goes on to grow up as an Israeli while his mother and siblings grow up in refugee camps across the border. Eventually (predictably?) the siblings are reunited in, of all places, war. I narrowly missed an interview with the author at the book fair, but that may be just as well where spoilers are concerned, I can imagine this one will be gripping…
Nothing to lose but your life, by Suad Amiry. I have to admit I wanted to buy this on the basis of the title alone. Palestine again (I was at the Bloomsbury/Qatar Foundation stall, a veritable fount for new and exciting Arab fiction). This time it’s a non-fiction account of an Architect living in Ramallah who disguises herself as a man and crosses the Israeli border illegally to seek work in Petah Tikva. The book covers the eighteen hour journey with a couple of her compatriots and is apparently is as funny as it is tragic. Just my cup of tea.
Pigeon English By Stephen Kelman. This is the real surprise of the lot - it’s narrated by an 11 year old, which, for anyone who is familiar with my feelings on child narrators is not a strong starting point. It’s also recommended highly by Emma Donoghue herself, who it’d be fair to say is not my favourite author. Apparently Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is also a good indicator of whether you’ll like this book (which I enthusiastically did not). But call me a sucker for punishment, the guardian’s quote on the front cover convinced me I shouldn’t throw the towel in on child narrators just yet. They describe it as “A gut-wrenchingly sad novel that makes you laugh out loud’. Again, my cup of tea.
And finally, a book I wanted to buy but didn’t as it’s not yet out in paperback…
I shall not hate, by Izzeldin Abuelaish. Not much to laugh about here, to be sure. A true story about a Palestinian doctor working in the Gaza strip, treating patients both Palestinian and Israeli, which is a story in itself - whose 3 daughters are killed by Israeli soldiers during the Israeli incursion of the Gaza strip in 2009. His reaction to this tragedy won him international recognition and humanitarian awards. Definitely have to read that one at some point.
Anyhoo. Off to make that cuppa now….