Tag Archives: reads

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: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room_cover

This is a haunting, yet satisfying novel and definitely left an impression on me. This book was definitely difficult for me to get into. At first I found it frustrating- narrated from a five-year-old boy’s perspective, he tells the story of him and Ma’s life – in Room. He has never been outside Room. Room is the only universe he knows, except for TV where everything is not real, just pretend. In room he spends his time with Bed, Table, Plant…Until his mother reveals to him that TV isn’t just TV- its pictures of real people…real places…

Jack (the boy) and his Ma are held captive in a garden shed by `Old Nick’ and cannot leave room. In fact his mother was kidnapped, raped and forced to give birth in her prison. That is where Jack was born.

Although the subject and reality of this book (inspired by the Josef Fritzel/Jaycee Duguard cases) is grim and horrendous, the fact that it is told by a five-year-old makes it a light read. He is not bitter or angry…he just tells it the way it is, leaving you to decide how you feel about the situation.

At first I felt claustrophobic- two people stuck in a room, keeping themselves busy, creating a routine (as one naturally needs for survival), distracting themselves as much as one can. Though I empathized with the characters I got frustrated, since I too, as a reader, was stuck in Room with them. But that’s the point. Nonetheless, this book is not just story of a kidnapping. The farther you read, the more layers the author embeds into the story.

Donoghue creates levels one step at a time- just like a five year old would when learning and categorizing new information amongst known information, slowly building understanding. She tackles themes such as hope, guilt, education, motherhood, family and survival. And having the narrator be so young was a masterful choice when writing about this subject, as it veils the matter with innocence. An intriguing psychological tale…hang in there…

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