The Hired Man: Book summary and reviews of The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna

The Hired Man

by Aminatta Forna

The Hired Man
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in the daily lives of those touched by it. With The Hired Man, she has delivered a tale of a Croatian village after the War of Independence, and a family of newcomers who expose its secrets.

Duro is off on a morning's hunt when he sees something one rarely does in Gost: a strange car. Later that day, he overhears its occupants, a British woman, Laura, and her two children, who have taken up residence in a house Duro knows well. He offers his assistance getting their water working again, and soon he is at the house every day, helping get it ready as their summer cottage, and serving as Laura's trusted confidant.

But the other residents of Gost are not as pleased to have the interlopers, and as Duro and Laura's daughter Grace uncover and begin to restore a mosaic in the front that has been plastered over, Duro must be increasingly creative to shield the family from the town's hostility, and his own past with the house's former occupants. As the inhabitants of Gost go about their days, working, striving to better themselves and their town, and arguing, the town's volatile truths whisper ever louder.

A masterpiece of storytelling haunted by lost love and a restrained menace, this novel recalls Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The Hired Man confirms Aminatta Forna as one of our most important writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A low-key but sophisticated portrait of history—and evil—at a local level." - Kirkus

"This is a powerful exploration of the impact that violence has on those who suffer it and those who inflict it." - Publishers Weekly

"A masterful novel by a gifted writer lays bare the secrets and scars of past conflicts...[Forna's] prose quietly grips us by the throat and then tightens its hold. It is storytelling at its most taut." - The Independent (UK)

"If her second novel The Memory of Love, set in Africa, confirmed Forna's flair for writing about war and its aftermath, The Hired Man seals her reputation as arguably the best writer of fiction in this field." - London Evening Standard (UK)

"Forna writes sensitively about the power of a history that is both terrible and banal... Duro's voice carries the narrative with a solidity and complexity that is very satisfying." - The Times (UK)

"[Forna] has a terrific ability to evoke the poisonous atmosphere of culpability and denial from which civil conflicts emerge. ... [and] the atmosphere of festering tension in which perpetrators of the most grotesque acts of violence continue to live side by side. ... The Hired Man triumphantly proves that the story need not always remain the same." - The Guardian (UK)

"Aminatta Forna ... crafts a story that initially seduces with intense and vivid physical detail, low, sour wit and a suggestion of romance, before twisting - without the reader even fully registering - it into a knotty, powerfully ambiguous allegory for collective trauma and negotiation with historical pain. - The Scotsman (UK)

"The way ... conflict can force apart a community like water creeping through brickwork is something [Forna] understands well." - Claire Allfree, Metro (London)

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Author Information

Aminatta Forna Author Biography

Photo: © Simon Westcott

Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. She is the author of The Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones, The Devil that Danced on the Water, and The Memory of Love, which has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times and Times.

In 2002 Forna helped to build a primary school in her family's village of Rogbonko. The building of the school was the first step in what would become known as the Rogbonko Project: a community effort to create an escape route from poverty through multiple initiatives in the spheres of education, agriculture, infrastructure and health.

Forna is also a trustee of the Royal Literary Fund and sits on the advisory committee of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has also ...

... Full Biography
Link to Aminatta Forna's Website

Name Pronunciation
Aminatta Forna: A-mi-na-tta FOR-na

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