A poignant story about friendship, betrayal, obsession and second chances – this novel is an immensely powerful portrayal of human resilience.
Sierra Leone: civil war has left an entire population with terrible secrets to keep. In the capital's hospital Kai, a gifted young surgeon, is plagued by demons. Elsewhere in the hospital lies Elias Cole, a university professor who recalls the love that drove him to acts that are far from heroic. As past and present intersect, Kai and Elias are drawn unwittingly closer and into the path of one woman at the centre of their stories.
©2010 Aminatta Forna (P)2011 W F Howes Ltd
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"Interwoven lives in conflict-affected Sierra Leone"
This is a wonderful book which examines the interwoven lives and loves of a handful of people in conflict-affected Sierra Leone. It explores the stories of a Sierra Leonian academic and political scientist who is incarcerated, threatened and broken; a Sierra Leonian surgeon whose personal experiences and helplessness during the war have left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and a desire ultimately to leave his homeland; and an English psychologist working in the country with patients with mental health problems, who questions and is questioned, about his own motives and ability to contribute. The women in their lives are less to the fore but present a powerful backdrop of interconnected resilience despite adversity. They too are tragically often defeated by the overwhelming brutality of war and the lack of resources in such a poor post-conflict country. The language is beautiful and the different perspectives and perceptions come through strongly. The book powerfully offers insights to Sierra Leone, the politics, the war and conflict, the challenges, the strengths and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the underlying hope...
I started off just enjoying this book, but it grew and grew into a wonderful story. I wouldn't say the plot twists and turns, but linkages between different strands of the story are gradually revealed until it becomes a complex and rich whole. The narrator is amazing - performs a wide array of natural sounding voices. My only criticism is that he makes the english character sound a bit gormless at the beginning, but either I came to terms with his voice or it became better as the book went on.
"Thought provoking, interesting & wonderfully read"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Harrowing, moving, beautifully written. The narrator makes the experience even more enjoyable. It is hard to believe that all those voices came from one man! i found the voices matched the characters personality. The strength of individuals following personal and national trauma shines through. It was interesting to think about the personal motives of those going to help in countries recovering from war.
"Strange pace and unnecessary detail obscured plot."
I would be reluctant. I often had to rewind the audiobook as the character perspective had changed -without obvious indication by the narrator- mid way through an important event which was being intricately described. Also I found the voice of Adrian too whiny, and not well suited to my idea of the character.
I found it hard to connect to any of the characters, which I was surprised by, given that some of the issues dealt with were a little close to home. Often there was a build up to a key event, where you thought you were about to understand the motives and feelings of the characters, only for a sudden change in time or perspective to spin your thoughts off into a different direction.
The best parts of the book were those which explored the differing reactions, both among the natives of Sierra Leone and of the various outsiders, to the war and conflict described. The changes in Adrian's feeling about the country and the people were a good way of conveying this.
The plot is not a bad one, but the roundabout way it is conveyed and the stop-start nature of the writing is not to my personal taste. For me the continual references to birds were too vague to be an obvious literary device (unless I am missing something) and too obscure to benefit the plot in any way. Also, perhaps I am over sensitive but I though the forthright descriptions of the processes of urination, masturbation, vomiting etc. were unnecessary.
I would point out that I still think the book was a worthwhile read as it provoked thoughts and considerations about conflict and human nature that I may not otherwise have come across, even if I do not fully agree with all the ideas the writer conveys.
"Wonderful, engaging and thought-provoking"
This is a novel with many levels, and all of them hugely fulfilling. Beautifully narrated, wonderfully drawn characters with such human imperfections, it's easy to put at the top of my 'must download' list. I actually wonder whether the text version would be as rewarding as this audiobook.
Beautifully written, thoughtful, sensitive, captivating and thought provoking. I rarely write reviews, but I was so moved by Aminatta Forna's writing style, that I really wanted to share it with others. A wonderfully special find, could not recommend it strongly enough.
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