In Thatcher's London, Lilly, a white Muslim nurse, struggles in a state of invisible exile. As Ethiopian refugees gradually fill the flats of the housing estate where she lives, Lilly tentatively begins to share with them her longing for the home she herself once had in Africa, and her heartbreaking search for her missing lover. Back in Haile ...
In Thatcher's London, Lilly, a white Muslim nurse, struggles in a state of invisible exile. As Ethiopian refugees gradually fill the flats of the housing estate where she lives, Lilly tentatively begins to share with them her longing for the home she herself once had in Africa, and her heartbreaking search for her missing lover. Back in Haile Selassie's Ethiopia, the young Lilly, born in the 1950s to British parents, now orphaned and full of religious conviction, finds herself living in the city of Harare. She is drawn to the idealistic young doctor, Aziz, himself an outsider in the community. But then convulsions of a new revolutionary order separate them, sending Lilly to an England, she has never seen, while Aziz disappears. Camilla Gibb's evocation of the distinctive world of the ancient city and of its unique religion and culture is vivid and rich. She draws us just as completely into the mind of the older Lilly, emotionally paralysed by her loss. The result is a fascinating and remarkably moving portrayal of a life lived at the cusp of two cultures.
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Publishers Weekly, 2006-05-01 While Kate Reading has a beautiful narrator's voice, low and lilting, dramatic and enticing, her characterizations are problematic. She often uses an annoying little-girl voice for protagonist Lilly, a white Western woman raised in a Moroccan shrine as a devout Muslim, living through the 1970s among Ethiopian Muslims who consider her a "forenji" (foreigner) despite her Arabic fluency and her Islamic piety. Reading also casts many of the Ethiopian women in a harsh, high range that makes them sound rather silly. Still, this is an engrossing listen because the novel is well written and timely. Gibb's prose rhythms are lovely, her language sensuous, her images vivid and her story of love doomed by political reality dramatic and moving. We move back and forth between the daily routines of deeply devoted families in Harar in the 1970s as Ethiopia disintegrates, and of the exile community in London in the '80s as Lilly awaits word of her Sudanese lover, who chose to stay on to fight the Haile Selassie regime. Without avoiding cultural aspects Westerners find so repulsive-a description of ritual clitoridectomy is almost unbearable-the reading exposes us to Muslim communities quite different from those written about in daily newspapers, communities worthy of respect, concern and action. Available as a Penguin Press paperback. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-01-09 With sure-handed, urgent prose, Gibb (The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life) chronicles the remarkable spiritual and geographical journey of a white British Muslim woman who struggles with cultural contradictions to find community and love. Lilly Abdal, orphaned at age eight after the murder of her hippie British parents, grows up at an Islamic shrine in Morocco. The narrative alternates between Harar, Ethiopia, in the 1970s, where she moved in pilgrimage at age 16, and London, England, in the '80s, where she lives in exile from Africa, working as a nurse. Ignoring the cries of "farenji," or foreigner, she starts a religious Muslim school in Harar. Later, in London, along with her friend Amina, Lilly runs a community association for family reunification of Ethiopian refugees. Each month, she reads the list of people who've escaped famine and the brutal Dergue regime, hoping to find Dr. Aziz Abdulnasser, her half-Sudanese lover who chose Africa over their relationship. Despite some predictability of plot, the novel fluently speaks the "languages of religion and exile," depicting both the multifaceted heartbreak of those lucky enough to escape violent regime changes and the beauty of unlikely bonds created by the modern multicultural world. (Mar. 20) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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