pretty_panther: (misc: cat on books)
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Copied from my book review blog.

The Attack by Yasmina Khadra is a book I stumbled across by chance in the local library when I trotted down with a list of recommended books by people of colour from my friends as part of my reading challenge. My library is frankly woeful and I didn't find anything on my list but while looking I noticed this author. I figured the name sounded like it might be that of someone of colour so plucked it out and found I was correct. I then bothered to actually read the blurb on the back and it sounded exactly my sort of thing. I then noticed there was another Khadra book on the shelf and picked that up as well. I'm yet to finish that but it is turning out to be just as wonderful as this.

I demolished this in two days and would probably have read it in an evening if it wasn't 2am when it came to a natural turn in the story and I let my sensible side win out. It is very much a 'can't put it down' sort of book in my eyes. The chapters are long enough to feel meaty and at the same time short enough to think 'one more' won't take too long and then you read another and another and another. A lot of the plot is actually given away in the blurb and yet the story doesn't turn out the way you'd think it would given what you're told before you start reading. I think that is pretty amazing, and shows the talent of the author. Not many could give away the plot and make it work the way Khadra does.

The basics of it is there is an Arab living in Israel with his life and working as a surgeon. He believes he has a good life and that he and his wife are very happy together when a suicide bomb goes off in his city. By day he strives to save as many as he can and by night he is brought back to the hospital to be told that his wife is the one responsible for the attack. This information is revealed pretty early on and it would seem to be the core of the plot but the novel goes on to follow this man in his attempts to understand when his wife became an Islamist and who were in the circle that aided her on her path to suicide. There are no huge revelations or plot twists in my mind when it comes to this story. This is about the human condition. It is about real people dealing with the sort of things that happen all the time in the Middle East and trying to come to terms with things in their own ways. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and yet isn't bogged down in details either which I find is too rare these days. Everything flows really well which is very impressive for me given I'm reading a translation. The book was originally published as L'attentat in 2005 in French. The edition I read was translated by John Cullen. As a student of French I have read many books where the French is on one side of the page and an English translation on the other and they are often clunky and jarring in places. I spent many French lessons debating with friends over what a translation should be and how far from the original text an English translation can go. This text doesn't feel like a translation. Cullen has handled the text well.

Both the Israeli and Arab communities are really fleshed out in this novel and while one side commits a terrible act, the Arabs are not made out to be the bad guys. This is not a black and white novel but one bursting with colour. I gave this book five stars because I couldn't fault the writing or the plot. It pleased me as a reader and has jumped straight into my favourites list. It is definitely one I could read again and again.

originally posted here
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