Why I Chose This Book
Book club book! It’s the one I voted for, actually, because I already had a copy of Dead Until Dark lying around the house that I know I’ll get to one day, and I didn’t really want to read The Distant Land of My Father because, well, I thought it was a memoir and was not in a memoir mood. I’ve since become more intrigued by it, but what can you do now?
Why I Chose Right Now to Review This Book
I started this review about a week ago, when I’d finished the book, but got distracted. Now I find out my book club friend hasn’t even gotten a hold of the book yet, and I’m loaning it to her tomorrow, and I figured I’d better write out my notes while I still had it around for reference, in case I needed to look up names and things. So much easier to open a book than dig info out of the Internet.
Nutshell Review of the Book
The story was pretty good to OK, but shines as an artifact. It was written in the 1930s as a historical novel set in the 19teens (right before WWI), in a specific geographic location: the intersection of Asia and Europe, in a town unsure of which continent was its primary influence. I was impressed with the diversity of locations and lifestyles presented in the book, and the style of the novel was easy to follow. The main character, Ali (a Muslim boy), was quite well fleshed-out, although everyone else was less so. It is called a “great romance” by the book cover blurbs, but, eh. Ali certainly has great love for Nino (a Christian girl), but we only get glimpses of her from his point of view. There is enough to suggest that she is a fully fledged person, but the reader doesn’t really experience her as a fully fledged character. She speaks up for herself often enough, but always to Ali, so what you get of her comes through his filter. You kind of have to trust him for why he’s so in love with her (besides the fact that he’s a young, rich son in love with his pretty, rich high school sweetheart whose parents consider them old enough to marry, which is the perfect set up for instant romance). And he does a lot of courageous things to be with her, so he’s really, really sincere, and he does think a lot about how she’ll react to plans he makes for them, which lets you know she speaks up for herself, but she’s not really in the book with us.
Long story short, your enjoyment of the novel will likely depend on your interest in this guy’s point of view, and your interest in the historical portrayal of a Eurasia populated by Muslims and Christians on the verge of war. Personally, I think the historical part is what the book has going for it. I did get pretty tired of Ali by the end.