Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BOOK: In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

Man Booker challenge (shortlist 2006); African Reading challenge (Libya); Orbis Terrarum challenge; notable book challenge

I usually try not to use the same book for too many challenges, but this one took me so long to read I am going to use it where ever I can. It is a well lauded book; the cover lists all sorts of important awards it was nominated for, but it just didn't resonate with me.

Suleiman narrates his story from his nine year old point of view, which is accurate if you think that nine year olds don't really know what is going on, so neither does the reader. His father is away on business, his mother is 'ill' and requires lots of medicine from the pharmacy. Poor Suleiman can only relate from his perspective, but it left me feeling as confused as a nine year old. The writing was good in that sense. There is also a revolution going on in 1979 Libya, and people are disappearing. Is his father going to be next? Did his father betray they neighbour? There is some Oedipal stuff going on with the love for his mother, and he is trying to be a man but he is simply a kid.

I just didn't get it mostly, but I didn't dislike it. It was one of those books where I know there is more going on, but I couldn't see it. It might make a better discussion book, or if it had Spark notes to go with it so I could read about the symbolism and themes. I don't claim to be very good at seeing the levels in a book. It's so, literary. And lots of people like that in their books, so I don't want to put any one off, but it wasn't enough of a page turner for me. I liked the view of Libya and seeing what life was like in that African country.

If you have also reviewed this book, leave me a link in the comments, so others can see another point of view.


  1. alas, it's too bad this wasn't a great book, because i'd love to read some libyan literature. i'll have to poke around for something better, if i ever finish Wizard of the crow, that is.

  2. dave - You might like it. I always worry when I don't like a book that I will unduly influence someone's reading. I didn't dislike it, and it got lots of great recognition. You should still try it, especially if you want to read Libyan lit.


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