A Better Life Imagined in his Eyes

The Belly of the Atlantic
Fatou Diome, trans. Lulu Norman and Ros Schwartz
Serpent's Tail
2006

the_belly_of_the_atlanticFatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic is a passionate story about the dream of migration and its harsh reality.  Told from the point of view of Strasbourg resident Salie, the novel nonetheless focuses mostly on her brother Madické.  Madické lives on  the Senegalese island Niodior and dreams of being headhunted to join a big European soccer team.  This dream is shared by many of his friends, persisting despite the warnings of Salie and the teacher Ndétare that neither the road to nor the life in Europe is as good as they believe. Continue reading

‘There was a Ship,’ Quoth He

sea_of_poppiesSEA OF POPPIES
Amitav Ghosh
First published 2008

Let me tell you about buying this book.  After being provided with a review copy of the third in this Ibis trilogy, I sought the first two books.  I initially purchased them from the Book Depository, since despite its purchase by Amazon, it has served me well in the past, and given the size of the books, time was somewhat of the essence. Unfortunately, my order for the second book was cancelled after a few days and I was refunded.  The first book, though, was ostensibly sent in early March.  By the beginning of April, I had not received it.  So I contacted the Book Depository and received a swift refund for that too.  And I turned to Booktopia, which delivered both books promptly, albeit in rather strange jaffle-style packaging.  Surprise, surprise, John Murray is a trading name of Hachette, with whom Amazon and by extention the Book Depository have been having a well-publicised tiff*.

Book finally in my hands, I expected something of a dour book.  Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, Sea of Poppies is firmly targeted at a literary market.  I feared it would be a worthy†, possibly depressing novel about serious issues. But while this book is certainly about the slightly serious issue of the first Opium War, it is neither dour nor worthy. In fact it is frequently hilarious.

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      DOCTOR ZHIVAGO Boris Pasternak (trans. Max Hayward and Manya Harai, Vintage, 2002 (first published Collins and Harvill, 1958)) ISBN: 9780099448426 Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago has been lauded for almost 60 years as one of the greatest love stories of all time.  An epic set during the Russian Revolution, it saw … Continue reading