Sunday, 20 July 2014

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Aaliya Saleh lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read—by anyone.

In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.

A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a nuanced rendering of one woman's life in the Middle East.

This is the description of this book that I received from the publishers. I had really high hopes for it as it sounded just the kind of thing I really enjoy. It also had a fabulous beginning which drew me straight in and I was hungry for more and then................

........and then it just died for me and I stopped reading about 25% of the way through the book which I very rarely do. However, this book became a series of quotes from other people reminiscient of writing my university dissertation when I believed that quotes from well respected academics would impress. Now, while that may have it's place in an academic work, I was left feeling that this book didn't really know whether it was a novel or an essay and was trying to be a little bit too clever for it's own good. I just was not interested enough to read on.

I have very mixed feelings about giving up with a book. On the one hand, I think it may be worth keeping going in the hope that it will become amazing and I have had that happen. In fact, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was one such book where, for me, it became brilliant about half way through and I was so pleased that I stuck with it.

On the other hand, I think that there are so many excellent books out there that it makes me question whether it is worth sticking with the mediocre ones. What do you all think?

On the other hand (yes, I know that three hands but I just thought of another point and I don't want to start using my feet to illustrate) if a writer has gone through blood, sweat and tears in producing this book then the very least I can do is see it through to the end before I make a judgement.

I don't often review books that I feel negative about particularly if I haven't read it through to the end as I figure that, as readers, you are probably more interested in those books that I have read and think you might be interested in reading for yourselves (if I am wrong in that assumption then please let me know.) However, I am always very aware of the subjectivity of reviewing as my reviews are only my humble opinion and your opinion of a book may be completely different to mine and is just as valid for it's opposing view.

So, if you have read this book or you intend to read it then please let me know your thoughts. One of the wonderful things about reading is the way one book can touch many of us in different ways and I think that is great.

ISBN: 978-0802122148

Publisher: Grove Press

Price (based on today's price at Amazon): £13.42

Total saving so far: £315.98

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