Summary and book reviews of The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

The Orchard of Lost Souls

by Nadifa Mohamed

The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed X
The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2014, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucy Rock

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Book Summary

From one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, a stunning novel illuminating Somalia's tragic civil war

It is 1987 and Hargeisa waits. Whispers of revolution travel on the dry winds, but still the dictatorship remains secure.

Soon, through the eyes of three women, we will see Somalia fall.

Nine-year-old Deqo has left the vast refugee camp where she was born, lured to the city by the promise of her first pair of shoes.

Kawsar, a solitary widow, is trapped in her little house with its garden clawed from the desert, confined to her bed after a savage beating in the local police station.

Filsan, a young female soldier, has moved from Mogadishu to suppress the rebellion growing in the north.

As the country is unraveled by a civil war that will shock the world, the fates of these three women are twisted irrevocably together.

Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa and was exiled before the outbreak of war. In The Orchard of Lost Souls, she returns to Hargeisa in her imagination. Intimate, frank, brimming with beauty and fierce love, this novel is an unforgettable account of ordinary lives lived in extraordinary times.

DEQO

Deqo steps barefoot across the festering mulch that slides beneath her feet. Her red plastic thong sandals hang delicately from her fingers, and beads of water drip from the trees as if the branches are shaking their fingers dry, splashing her face and neck in mischief. She hides behind the wide trunk of a willow near two crouched figures, her face framed in a scorched cleft where lightning has flung itself in a careless fit. She whispers her name to give herself courage. The men's talk is distorted by the music of raindrops falling over thousands of trees in the ditch, their leaves held out like waxy green tongues. The drought that had tormented her in Saba'ad is over, but she is in no mood to enjoy the downpour.

On either side of the trees are the stray dogs, thieves and promenading ghosts of Hargeisa. The swish of cars crossing the bridge and the susurrations of secret policemen come to her through the darkness. The barrel in which she sleeps is cold, too cold. The ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Nadifa Mohamed deftly interlinks the women's three narratives in a way that, if a little far-fetched, proves to be one that is immensely rewarding, heart-warming and thoroughly sagacious. Think war-torn Somalia will leave you feeling depressed and at odds with the world? Think again. This portrait, however fictional, is illuminating.   (Reviewed by Lucy Rock).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Despite some strained coincidental connections, Mohamed creates three memorable characters and makes the experience of what it was (and remains) like to live through the chaos of Somalia's dystopia disturbingly real.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Mohamed is a lyrical writer, and although her material could easily be exploited, she does not so much milk it for emotion as elevate it to a kind of searing poetry.

Booklist

Starred Review. Mohamed evokes the burgeoning unrest of a city on the brink of chaos with vibrant, evocative language and imagery, crafting a story that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

Library Journal

Starred Review. [E]ach character, in her drive to find safety and belonging, is fully realized and at least somewhat sympathetic, and the novel builds to an unlikely but satisfying ending when the three characters' paths cross again.

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Beyond the Book

The Somali Civil War: A Brief Overview

Nadifa Mohamed's latest novel is set at the birth of a new conflict for Somalia and runs right up to the present day. To understand the whys and wherefores of Somali lawlessness is to gain insight into one of the most treacherous parts of the world.

Map of Somalia In 1991, the country's socialist dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown, and an unremitting state of conflict and lawlessness followed for many years. Warlords and militant groups spent over two decades locked in a power struggle that has destroyed Somalia's population and laid waste to the country's towns and cities. Conditions were often so bad that the country was abandoned even by U.N. peacekeepers. After a series of peackeeping initiatives, the current government led by ...

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