Curling up with interesting books is a great way to settle into the new year . Browsing through the racks, I choose 'Alentejo Blue' by Monica Ali, 'Beasts of No Nation' by Uzodinma Iweala, 'Gate of the Sun' by Elias Khoury (available in a recent English translation), and 'Absurdistan' by Gary Shteyngart.
Fiction can enhance our understanding of the human experience in deeper ways. When we read a well crafted story by a master of the written word, we are led into sharing the lives and thoughts of people in distant lands. Sometimes, we get a deeper understanding and rare insights into the consciousness of people closer home; people whom we would otherwise never get to know. Great works of fiction take us beyond the dry facts of news reports and world politics into the human stories behind the scenes.
Absurdistan is noteworthy for its tongue-in-cheek look at modern life and world politics, and Europe's chaotic transition from socialism to capitalism.
In Alentejo Blue, Monica Ali takes us into an interesting and unique world far from the Bangladeshi's of London's Brick Lane. Through her portrayal of a village community in exotic Portugal, Ali weaves stories of human vulnerability. This book moves a bit slowly and the characters sometimes tend to be flat and dull. Take the teenage nymphomaniac daughter of a typical touristy family, the British writer suffering from writers block, beautiful but bored Teresa, who dreams of a life beyond her dull job as a salesgirl. The author explores how the lives of these ordinary, unconnected people are linked in subtle yet profound ways.
Beasts of No Nation is a chilling book which explores the horrors of modern war through the eyes of a child soldier.
Gate of the Sun explores the implication of war and suffering. While fighters go forth in battle, women and children suffer and die. Dr. Khalil, the narrator, remembers in flashes how fighting men were deported from Beirut and the camps dismantled. He wonders whether the Palestinian story is intrinsically different from that of Jews in Nazi Germany.Through his characters and their experiences and conversations, author Khoury explores the nuances of the Arab-Israeli conflict with humanity and compassion.