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 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 ...
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).
Full Review (644 words).
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.
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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