I had a truly delightful time with this book. The writing style is as mesmerizing as a warm wind in spring. Flashbacks intertwine softly with stories into a story which is both moving and unemotional at the same time.
The story is narrated by Mr Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall in its years of fame and prosperity. His British sense of duty and order teleports readers in the behind the scenes of one of the famous aristocratic house of the beginning of the 20th century. Politics, housekeeping, father-son relations, an un-lived love, intricacies of the butler’s profession make a fine story, where values of loyalty and integrity remain central.
I absorbed the book. It’s my first book by Al-Shaykh and I bet it is not going to be the last. Her writing is as honest and truthful as the crystal water of a mountain river. Listening to and making public the story of one’s mother is brave because it requires introspection and forgiveness of all.
The story of Kamila, Hanan’s mother, is both unique and telling of an era and society dominated by religious patriarchs. Forced child marriage, an early pregnancy, abandonment, dependence and poverty marked Kamila’s life, yet it did not bend her free spirit. She was illiterate, yet her wisdom is deeper than the prescriptions of many scholars. She had no social security, yet her wit and survival instinct enabled her to see all her children into adulthood through the turmoil of war and social change of her country.
I am humbled by the story. And similar stories of million of women who remain anonymous, yet without which we would not be standing here and now.
My child recommended this book to me. I loved it. Such a good story line.
With the war in the background of the story, the author puts empathy towards humans and animals at the forefront. It is the story of an ordinary German family from Dresden, who saved an young elephant from being killed before the city’s bombings by allies. Their refuge to west to meet the Americans was filled with hurdles, yet a certain magic enveloped them: “we must have been a strange sight for those who caught sight of us: Peter and I, stomping along together ahead, an elephant behind us with two or three children aboard, and, following them, Mutti and her cavalcade of signing children”.
This is a good book for small and big, to be read aloud on a long winter night. To remind ourselves about forgiveness and resilience.