Friday, October 3, 2008

In the Country of Men

Author: Hisham Matar
Pages: 245
My Rating:

My next stop in the OT challenge was Libya. I never read any prior reviews of this book and the only reason I picked it up was becoz it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize -2006. I have a tendency to choose books that are shortlisted for prizes, coz I always feel they have some substance in them for being nominated for a prize! More often than not I am proved to be right; so was the case with this book too. Though I didn't LOVE it and it doesn't feature in my top-favorites list, I still enjoyed reading it - learnt a lot about the life in Libya and the Libyan revolution especially.

The book is Hisham Matar's debut novel set in Tripoli Libya. It deals with Libyan Qadhafi's September 1969 revolution; the social and politcal life in the seventies. One aspect I loved about this book was the author's usage of poetic prose and the attention to detail in the important scenes of the plot. The writing style is very simple so it really helps you concentrate on the plot and the characters.

The author doesn't give us details of the revolution, but he explains the impact of the revolution on the day-to-day lives of people and especially on children, through the story of a 9 year old boy - Suleiman, who narrates the story as an adult. The author has developed the child's character and that of his mother's as a complex yet complete multi-dimensional human beings. The emotions in Suleiman, his cruelty, dilemma, betrayal and all the contradictions he goes through are portrayed very well. But somehow it still failed to make a lasting impact on me. I am still not able to figure out what could be the reason, but I know that at the end of the book I felt that it did fall short of something! One reason could be that the author did not spend enough time and effort to really build up and highlight the relationships better - be it the one between the father and son or between Suleiman and his best friend Kareem. So I always felt I was at the surface and looking at what's happening, rather than feeling that I was a part of the story or engrossed enough to relate to the characters.

Nevertheless, I still recommend this book as it's not just a run-of-the-mill fiction. It's based on the real life events during Libyan revolution and helps you gain some insights into the same.

If you have read this book, I would love to know what you felt. If you reviewed it already, do let me know and I'll link it here.


Ramya said...

hey..that sounds interesting.. i should add that to my wishlist!

Pratima said...

you should! I would love to know how u like it :)

Stephen said...

I really enjoy ethnic novels but this is not of the same high standard of Khaled Hosseini and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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Karen said...

Hi there, I liked your review of Hisham Matar’s ‘In the Country of Men’ and wondered whether you might be interested in asking Hisham Matar a question about this book? BBC World Book Club on the World Service is interviewing him soon and would love to hear from you. If interested, please email me at as soon as you can with a question about the book (anything - doesn't have to be particularly clever!), along with where you’re from/live. We can either arrange for you to talk to Hisham Matar himself, or have our presenter put your question to him for you. Then you will be able hear your question on BBC World Service Radio when it airs.
Best wishes,
BBC World Book Club