NASHER’S Review of “Le Faucon”
Author: Gilbert Sinoué
Pages: 280 pages
Publishing house: Al-Kamel Verlag
The figure of the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul in peace, has always been inspiring for many writers, poets and authors, from within and outside the Arab world. Hundreds of books focusing on different aspects of his biography were released, recording his glorious deeds, values and principles, including his love for people, his concern for the child and the family, his pursuit of unity and the development of his community, even his wisdom, vision, confidence in his people and his belief in the future of his homeland.
Yet, the Egyptian-born French writer, Gilbert Sinoué, had the lead in producing the first literary work of fiction to deal with the biography of Sheikh Zayed, may God rest his soul, through his book “Le Faucon”, which was published in mid-2020 in French by “Gallimard”, the leading French publishing house. Recently, Al-Kamel Verlag in Beirut and Baghdad released its Arabic edition, translated by Saleh Al-Ashmar, the well-known Lebanese writer and translator.
The book celebrates the personality of Sheikh Zayed the son, father, brother, ruler and poet, by shedding light on many situations, highlighting his presence in the lives of many international personalities, including the British traveler Wilfred Thesiger, the Egyptian-born engineer Abdel Rahman Makhlouf, and the British writer Susan Hilliard.
The “Le Faucon“ novel sheds light on the most prominent milestones and figures in the history of the UAE, before its establishment, and deals with Sheikh Zayed’s relationship with each of them, especially his brother Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the 11th ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1928 to 1966. It also highlights the most prominent development projects in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain, as well as Sheikh Zayed’s travels to Britain, Pakistan, and India. The book also deals with the emergence of the UAE, and the subsequent events and challenges that the late managed to overcome all with his visionary wisdom, to place his country in the ranks of the most stable, progressive and prosperous countries in the world.
Nasher’s Review of “Over The Republican Bridge”
Author: Shahad Al Rawi
Publishing house: Dar Al Hikma, London
The young Iraqi author, Shahad Al Rawi returns with her second book ‘Over The Republican Bridge’ and after the success that her debut novel ‘The Baghdad Clock’ achieved, many readers were wondering what will Al Rawi next book be about and how different it will be.
In ‘Over The Republican Bridge’ the reader is invited to witness how the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and prior events impacts not just one generation but three; the grandparents, the parents, and children, and how one location, or rather the Republican Bridge is the place that plays a major part in one family over the decades. The novel begins with the bridge and ends with it, and just as it represents hope and change, it is also a source of danger and despair. Thinking about the bridge and its symbolic meaning within the novel, one comes to the realisation that just as ‘bridges’ are the way we cross over the river from onside to another without much thought to what awaits us, the bridge in Al Rawi’s novel is the deciding factor in every character’s fate, it is the deciding factor between new and old, life and death.
It is on the Republic Bridge that the protagonist recalls how the American Tanks were crossing into the heart of Baghdad, signaling the end of Iraq that everyone knew and the start of the unknown journey that many people had to take. Like most people in Iraq, the protagonist and her family leave Iraq into an unknown neighbouring country where they aim to start a new life, only to lose their mother to a deadly illness less than a month later. It is then that the reader is again struck by the use of symbolism, whether it is intended or not, the loss of the mother figure is the loss of one’s home country, loss of security, and the loss of belonging. This is demonstrated through the novel’s nameless protagonist, who throughout the book has no clear sense of belonging, not with her sister, father, cousin, or friends. Even when she tries to fall in love, it is a half-hearted attempt, which confirms the point that she has no sense of belonging and by finding a romantic interest, she assumed that will be her focal point after all don’t we all need something or someone that we call home?
In ‘Over The Republic Bridge’ the theme of escapement and longing for the past are evident at every stage of the novel, even before the family’s departure of Iraq there is a sense of longing to the past by the mother when she talks about her school, and it is clear that people often look back to the past with a romanticised view yet in our protagonist case, even the good times are marred with sorrow such as the death of her uncle during the first war that Iraq endured in the 80s.
If you have been following the work of Al Rawi, you would have noticed that there is a sense of maturity in ‘Over The Republic Bridge’ in her writing in the way that the characters are all given space to form a bond with the readers, they are all multi-dimensional with flaws and attractive qualities; essentially they are humanised by their contradictory qualities, no one is perfect, and that is the aspect of Al Rawi’s characters that made them memorable to readers. The novel’s ending is another sign of Al Rawi’s progression and maturity as a writer, it is daring and different which might leave some readers disappointed at the unexpected ending but for others, it is a fitting and realistic end for a troubled community such as Iraqis with their long-suffering history and any other end would have just been unacceptable and unrelatable.
Regardless of your nationality or background, ‘Over The Republic Bridge’ is a good read for anyone who has experienced loss in its various nature, it is a journey of acceptance and on this journey, you will meet many characters that shape your thoughts and outlook on life. We at Nasher have given it a rating of 3/5.
Nasher’s Review of “Confessions of a Curious Bookseller”
Author: Elizabeth Green
Pages: 483 pages
Publishing house: Lake Union Publishing
Publishing date: January 1, 2021
Bookshops, cats, and secret confessions — what could possibly go wrong!
Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green is a story of 50 something-year-old Fawn, a bookshop owner and a cat lover, who tries to save her business from a new bookshop that opened just around the corner.
It is written in the forms of e-mail correspondence, online comments, and a little bit of Fawn’s journaling. A modern epistolary form.
Everything about this book, from title and cover to the overview, grabs the reader’s attention and almost calls out to be read.
Without question, Fawn Birchill knows that her used bookstore is the heart of West Philadelphia, a cornerstone of culture for a community that, for the past twenty years, has found the quirkiness absolutely charming. When an amicable young indie bookseller invades her block, Fawn is convinced that his cushy couches, impressive selection, coffee bar, and knowledgeable staff are a neighbourhood blight. Misguided yet blindly resilient, Fawn readies for battle.
But as she wages her war, Fawn is forced to reflect on a few unavoidable truths: the tribulations of online dating, a strained relationship with her family, and a devoted if not always law-abiding intern–not to mention what to do about a pen pal with whom she hasn’t been entirely honest and the litany of repairs her aging store requires.
Through emails, journal entries, combative online reviews, texts, and tweets, Fawn plans her next move. Now it’s time for her to dig deep and use every trick at her disposal if she’s to reclaim her beloved business–and her life.
The book can not be claimed as a life changing text but it is certainly a light and refreshing read – a much needed distraction from our current climate – while Confessions of a Curious Bookseller will entertain you and make you laugh, its an easy read without complications or difficult plots; the perfect medicine for January blues. Plus the easy format of narration, immediately strikes an engagement with the reader and encourages one to keep on turning the page, and despite the fact that we mostly see events from Fawn’s perspective but others are given a voice too, such as her rival, Mark and her mother, sister, penpal and even her employers. We can’t fully engage with most of the characters due to their short correspondence but the reader does grow to semi-like Fawn and her peculiar ways. In fact as the book progresses we begin to understand Fawn’s peculiar way and appreciate her insecurities that stems from her childhood and the way her father was never open in his feelings towards her.
The book does not fully live up to its title or even book cover but we would certainly recommend Confessions of a Curious Bookseller as a holiday read or a book to pick up that will just offer you a much-needed relief. We will give the book a rating of 3 out of 5, because although it is an enjoyable read its not a novel that will leave a mark on you nor is it likely to be put forward to any literary award.
Confessions of a Curious Bookseller is Elizabeth Green debut novel, she has graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA in theatre arts and lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two cats.