Early one morning in 1899, in a small town along the coast from Mombasa, Hassanali sets out for the mosque. But that morning he never gets there, for out of the desert stumbles an Englishman who collapses at his feet. That man is Martin Pearce - writer, traveller and something of an Orientalist. He is taken to recuperate at the house of a colonial ...
Early one morning in 1899, in a small town along the coast from Mombasa, Hassanali sets out for the mosque. But that morning he never gets there, for out of the desert stumbles an Englishman who collapses at his feet. That man is Martin Pearce - writer, traveller and something of an Orientalist. He is taken to recuperate at the house of a colonial official, Frederick Turner. When he visits Hassanali to thank him for his rescue, he meets his sister Rehana and is immediately fascinated by her beautiful eyes and her air of tragedy. In this crumbling town on the edge of civilised life, with the empire on the brink of a new century, a passionate love affair begins that brings two cultures together and that will reverberate through three generations and across continents. It carries its consequences to Zanzibar in the early 1950s, a country struggling with its complicated legacy of slavery and foreign rule. Here another forbidden love affair begins as Zanzibar moves inexorably towards Independence - and revolution. Through the lives of his characters Abdulrazak Gurnah creates an unforgettable portrait of a continent in upheaval. Ambitious, moving and absorbing, it is a spellbinding novel from a writer at the height of his powers.
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Publishers Weekly, 2005-06-06 Against the backdrop of colonial Africa, Booker-nominated Gurnah (By the Sea; Paradise) crafts a dense, decade-straddling story of cross-cultural love and its repercussions in his seventh novel, which begins in Zanzibar in 1899. After Somali guides abandon him in the desert, English orientalist Martin Pearce is rescued and cared for by Indian Muslims, Hassalani and his sister, Rehana, until a government official finds him. Martin is a sympathetic hero, somehow more enlightened than the European colonialists, for whom racism is endemic. When he returns to thank Hassalani for sheltering him, he falls for the beautiful Rehana, and they begin a transgressive affair. The narrative then leaps forward to the late 1950s (just before Zanzibar's independence from colonial rule) to follow the lives of two brothers: Rashid, who will go to London on scholarship, and Amin, who embarks on a passionate, forbidden affair with Jamila, the sophisticated, divorced granddaughter of Rehana and Martin. Though the shift in time between Part I and II diffuses this richly textured novel's momentum, the author's luminous prose makes it easy to forgive the disjointedness as he explores Africa's emergence from European rule and the continuing fallout from Rehana and Martin's near-unthinkable union. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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