Lucy and Todd

Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela

In The Gloves Are Off : Thoughts on Literature on May 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm

We think this is one of the best books of recent years.  Aboulela has completely mastered the novel form, and twists and turns things to her own advantage, making a whole rich absorbing world emerge.  Never a word out of place, but full of play with language, and so full of poetry.  It’s beautiful.  You wish it would never end.

The book makes a claim for the inherent benevolence of families.  But it also notes compassionately all the difficulties of difference: each character’s perspective on the world is private and sometimes irreconcilable.  Aboulela is by turns tender, compelling, startling – but always true to these people and their struggles, male, female, old and young, rich and poor, ill and well.

One character, Badr, is wonderfully in love with his wife: ‘She … was sweet and creamy as pudding. Her ample body was firm, a multitude of orbs…’  Orbs!  But the most moving moment in the book, I feel, is when Badr is carrying his baby daughter and escorting his demented father up the stairs at the same time: ‘Here he was with his bliss in one arm and his burden in the other, his pleasure on one side and his trial on the other. Balanced. Striving up with these two attachments…Loving them both, serving them both.’  This is just genius.

I also like it when the birds ‘sing their guts out’.  I can’t get that out of my head!

LE


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