This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mothers prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailus youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movementa choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.
Beneath the Lions Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lions Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is the outstanding debut novel of an unquestionably gifted writer. Maaza Mengiste's style is absolutely beautiful; she flawlessly combines flowing description and contemplative characters with an action-oriented plot. Often "poetic writing" is synonymous with "slow reading," but this novel is engrossing from start to finish. She has the remarkable ability to pull her readers into profound emotional depths with just a few eloquent sentences. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
New York Times
For all its beginner’s flaws, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is an important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters.
Although the depictions of brutality are extensive, they are also realistic and captivating, helping place Lion's Gaze into a small cadre of Ethiopian fiction, including Abraham Verghese's Cutting the Stone and Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly. Fans of historical adult fiction will approve.
Starred Review. Ethiopia's 1974 revolution tears a family in half in this striking debut...that the novel subjects the reader to the same feelings of hopelessness and despair that its characters grapple with is a grand testament to Mengiste's talent.
An arresting, powerful novel that works on both personal and political levels.
Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames
With words that make ‘a faint, tender bruise’ on the page, and a compassionate imagination that transforms everything it touches on, Maaza Mengiste delivers an important story from a part of Africa too long silent in the World Republic of Letters.
Uwem Akpan, author of Say You're One of Them
What a beautiful book! After a few chapters I felt I was a member of this family, a citizen of Ethiopia. Maaza Mengiste is talented and bold and fresh. Already, I'm looking forward to her next book.
Dagoberto Gilb, author of The Magic of Blood and The Flowers
Literature from the margins is often too poorly lit for us to see, but Mengiste takes us through this dark political hunt with the night vision of a lion. A novel both tender and brutal, fearless, it is accomplished beyond a first book.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by donna nueva, totally boring I only read 1/2 of this book, as I couldn't stand reading it anymore. the characters were cardboard, the language and descriptions mediocre. I regret having bought it and gave it to the library.
Rated of 5
by Anno Beneaath the Lion's Gaze I was so looking forward to reading this book but the best thing I got out of it was that it motivated me to go on line and read more of the history of Ethiopia. The connection of that country and the daughter of Emily Pankhurst was most... Read More
The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution
Ethiopia was a monarchy until 1974, ruled by a dynasty that can be documented back to the 13th century, and claimed by oral tradition to trace its lineage to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Emperor Haile Selassie I, born in 1892, was the country's last emperor, beginning his rule as regent in 1916 and officially becoming emperor in 1930. He was considered both a modernizer and a unifier, and was generally held in high respect by his people and the international community.
Following an attempted coup in 1960, dissatisfaction with Selassie's reign grew, as his government struggled with economic and political reforms. A severe famine and drought in 1972-74 brought food shortages and high inflation to Ethiopia which, coupled with perceived government corruption, led to general discontent among the populace. The shortages also impacted those in the military, as low pay and insufficient food and supplies led to a wide-spread mutiny among the lower ranks. In response, low-ranking military officers formed the Derg (meaning...
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafras impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.
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