Wednesday, 7 November 2012
What the Day Owes the Night - #20
Moving on from the wintry and chilling images of supernatural Muscovites, I picked up this novel of the Algerian revolution. The story starts with a boy called Younes, an Algerian boy, witnessing his family losing his family's lands. After a steep decline from that point onwards, his father ends up asking his uncle who has been educated in the West and married to a French woman, to look after Younes and raise him as his own. Younes then becomes Jonas, as he moves from a life of a poor Arab boy to one of wealth and privilege within the educated and colonial elite in Algeria.
We then follow Jonas as he then negotiates the world where his ethnic group is viewed as only servants and possessions, and while these downtrodden people are plotting to take Algeria back for the Algerians. He then has to deal with the consequences of teenage passion, as well as meeting a beautiful girl who drives his group of friends apart. Girls trump ethnic uprisings as deal breakers. Apparently.
I picked this book up now as it was the October read for a group on African Lit. But the benefit of reading it while I was travelling, was I ended up reading it while I was in Paris, and Algeria was colonised by the French. I think this helped the mood somewhat. Ignoring that the book was in the desert and it was 8 degrees in Paris, the Frenchness oozed through into the book.
Otherwise, as I know not everyone is as lucky to be able to read this in Paris, it was a wonderfully written book. But it was accessibly beautiful. Not like reading a book of poetry. It was able to transport you to feel like you were lying on an African Mediterranean beach, even if you were sitting in a freezing cold, open Parisian train station where the French do not believe in seats and so you have to perch on top of your suitcase for 2 hours... >.> ... /end rant.
Also, you could feel the split poor Jonas was feeling between his background and supporting his people (including his family) and maintaining the status quo. I wonder if I ended up feeling this more acutely than the character did in the end. As if I was projecting my own emotions, and ignoring his slightly. But to throw his lot in with the revolution could have separated Jonas from everything that was now his life. That must be heartbreaking.
What I did have a problem with was the romance. I didn't buy the dilemma. I'm sorry. I didn't get it. Therefore, sympathy for decisions made in this regard just wasn't there. And seeing it was what half the book was about, that just annoyed me. So due to that annoyance of the story, it took me down to a 3.5. I'm sure other people won't be as annoyed, but it just detracted from the rest of the book to be annoyed with half the story.