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Summary and book reviews of Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah

Tropic of Violence

by Nathacha Appanah

Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah X
Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah
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  • Paperback:
    May 2020, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

A potent novel about lost youth and migration by the author of The Last Brother and Waiting for Tomorrow.

Marie, a nurse in Mayotte, a far-flung, tropical department of France in the Indian Ocean, adopts a baby abandoned at birth by his mother, a refugee from Comoros. She names him Moïse and raises him as her own―and she avoids his increasing questions about his origins as he grows up. When Marie suddenly dies, thirteen-year-old Moïse is left completely alone, plunged into uncertainty and turmoil. In a state of panic, he runs away from home, and sets himself on a collision course with the gangs of Gaza, the largest and most infamous slum on the island.

Nathacha Appanah has deftly assembled a small chorus of voices who narrate the heartbreak, violence, and injustice of life in Mayotte. To Marie's and Moïse's perspectives she adds those of Bruce, a terrifying gang leader; Olivier, a police officer fighting a losing battle; and Stéphane, the naïve aid worker whose efforts to help Moïse only make him more vulnerable.

Tropic of Violence shines a powerful light on the particular deprivation and isolation in this forgotten and neglected part of France. At the same time, it is a moving portrayal of the desperation and inequality that are driving refugee crises across the world, and of the innocent children whose lives are being torn apart in their wake. This is a remarkable, unsettling new novel from one of the most exciting voices in world literature.

Moïse

It's a big cell. It's square. A concrete bench runs along the wall facing the door.

On the same wall, high up, there's a rectangular opening that might possibly let a cat through. Or a very thin dog, like Bosco.

I'm sitting on the bench. If I look up I can see a fragment of sky that's so blue and motionless that I wonder if it's not a picture. There's a word for them, those things, pictures painted to look like the real thing, I can't remember it now, if Marie were here she'd have ...

My hands are starting to shake, I shouldn't have thought about Marie. I try to steady them between my thighs, to squeeze them under my armpits, to cross my fingers as if I were praying with all my strength but it doesn't stop.

My name's Moïse, I'm fifteen years old and at dawn I killed someone. I'd like them to know I barely squeezed the trigger, if Marie were here I'd have told her that, I'd have told her like this I barely squeezed it Mam and it went off, and she'd have believed...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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Saying much with few words, Appanah reminds us that the refugee crisis often hits closer to home than many countries and governments are willing to admit. The prose itself is initially unassuming, but closer inspection reveals a subtle skill that underpins the novel's construction. Appanah juxtaposes the depravity of the overflowing slums with the beauty of their natural surroundings, and she is able to reflect the violence and suffering endured by Moïse without indulging in gratuity...continued

Full Review Members Only (720 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Appanah, who was born in Mauritius and now lives in France, has written a crucial, timely novel. In it, she shows that beyond all the good intentions of the well-meaning lies a seething, anguished world...Searing, lyrical, and ultimately devastating, Appanah's latest novel might be her finest yet

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] blistering depiction of postcolonial chaos...A journalist and native Mauritian, Appanah has a knack for reportorial detail that crystallizes the characters' commentary...This heralds Appanah as an essential cosmopolitan voice.

Library Journal (starred review)
Appanah's heartrending, insightful story makes us understand—and feel—the steps leading toward bloody confrontation in this relentless world.

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Beyond the Book

Mayotte: A Community in Crisis

Map showing Mayotte off the east coast of AfricaAn official department of France, Mayotte is a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of southeast Africa. This unique political and geographic setup has led to the development of a complex, fraught national identity for many of its people, with problems related to crime, population density, poverty and poor social care being fueled by increasing pressure from mass immigration.

Once part of the former French colony of Comoros, Mayotte voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining part of France when Comoros declared independence in 1975. A 2009 referendum confirmed Mayotte's desire to be classified as an integral part of France, and this was made official in 2011 when the region was declared the 101st French department ...

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