Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf

First publisLeo the Africanhed 25 years ago, Leo Africanus (also called Leo the African) is a timeless, captivating classic. It is based on the true life of Hasan Al-Wazzan, the 16th century traveler and writer, who explored and travelled the Mediterranean throughout his life time. He witnessed the fall of Granada, the blossoming of Fez, the Ottoman conquest of Egypt and Renaissance in Rome. It is divided into four parts: The book of Granada, the book of Fez, The book of Cairo and finally, the book of Rome. Yet this is not a dry historical novel, it is a masterful piece of history inspired by the real-life Al-Wazzan. The history is accurate and the character real, but read like fiction…it is a mix of adventure, travel, exotic tales, war, love and self-discovery. Amine Maalouf truly captures the zeitgeist of what it was like to live and exist in the Arab world over 500 years ago… 

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Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

This story goes back and forth between 1930s & present day Edinburgh. In the 1930s, Esme Lennox is sent away to a mental institution on account of her hysteria. Forward to present day Edinburgh where her great-niece is called upon to collect her previously unknown, great-aunt from the same instutition, which is now shutting down. This leaves her niece trying to piece together the puzzle of how she came to live in a mental institution for 60 years. It has the typical O’Farrell style of weaving together two stories from different generations. O’Farrell gives away pieces of information throughout, interweaving past and present until everything comes together in the end, with a signature twist. Set in Scotland, the backdrop adds to the mysteries that continue to unfold throughout the book. It is one of those books that only loosly ties the knot at the end, leaving it up to the reader to fill in some of the blanks. It is quite a short and easy read; it does not even have any chapters. Something that would be good for a week-end beach trip, or a long flight. Although it does not compete with The Hand that First Held Mine, it is an easy-read, quirky novel that leaves you wondering.

Vanishing Act

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Book Review: Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

This is a beautiful novel that flows between Egypt and Europe, written with lyrical prose. Matar is a phenomenal writer who manages to describe profound emotions in little words. It is the story of a young boy, Nouri who loses his mother at a young age. He soon meets Mona, on a beach in Alexandria while alone on holiday with his father. Mona, who is later to become his step mother, is a young and mesmerizing woman, who he feels extremely drawn to. However, after his father, a respectable and influential man in Egypt gets kidnapped while on business in Switzerland, he and Mona are left to piece together this sudden disappearance, changing their relationship forever. However, this is not a mystery novel, albeit the air of mystery is prevalent throughout. It is a journey the reader goes through with Nouri, exploring relationships, the meaning of loyalty, and ultimately life. It is a story filled with emotion.  Each character is so compelling, it is hard not to be drawn into this novel. Consumed with innocence, love and the unveiling of secrets. Matar, who was nominated for the Man Booker Prize for his novel, In the Country of Men, is an extremely impressive writer who does not disappoint in this magical piece of fiction.


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Book Review: The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Book Cover

Book Cover

This book, The Hand that First Held Mine, is by Maggie O’Farrell, who in my opinion is a great storyteller.
Alternating between past and present, each chapter of this book tells the story of either Lexi or Elaina. Lexi’s story is set in the 1950s-60s and Elaina’s is set in present day. Two women whom, unknown to them, share something in common (you’ll find out). The only reason I rate it 4 out of 5 stars is because I would’ve liked it to be just about the 1950s part, although that would take away from the story- the present-day part is still very good, very interesting and ties in with a twist at the end-its just a personal thing (i prefer period writings in comparison to anything contemporary).

Not only is this a beautiful story line, but there are so many themes tackled, beautiful descriptive passages and just such good writing that takes you so deep into the stories.

The way O’Farrell writes makes you feel as if you are there with Lexie. Sitting beside her. Staring at her red scarf, then looking away to see who’s just walked into the random Soho cafe. Having a cigarette with her, watching her blow smoke into the thick air. Observing the buttons on her blouse, the colour of her hair. When you put the book down you can still hear the London traffic and smell the musky air of the 1950s. The style is just so atmospheric.

It also tackles themes (though subtly- you don’t feel it as you read it which is why it’s so fantastic) such as Love, Trust and Motherhood. And such honest portrayls of each. O’Farrell doesn’t write a pretty-picture story,she just tells it the way it is.

The characters are real people. The locations are real locations- the only thing fabricated is the wonderful story and lives of these people you will grow to love so much. If you want to travel back into time- and really feel something, read this. I highly reccomend it.

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