Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

Five a.m.

With a title like The Orchard of Lost Souls one should expect an element of the artsy-fartsy, and one characteristic of the artsy-fartsy is short sentences that are meant as powerful expressions or impressions of the soul. If you disagree, that means you are stupid, lowbrow and need to read more Pynchon and Hosseini or in a pinch Dare Me by Megan Abbott. That will get you in the mood for brief, cutting sentence fragments filled with angst, music, soul. Next line:

Too early to eat.

The only good thing about these opening lines is that they are short. Oops, but the next sentence is long:

There is hardly any light, perhaps just enough to distinguish a dark thread from white, but Kawsar washes her face in the basin inside her bathroom, runs a caday over her teeth and slips into the day's costume without wasting any paraffin.

Someone was obviously paying attention to her creative writing teachers, those failed writers, who drone on about always mixing up the narrative with a combination of short simple sentences and long complex structures. In fact, as this moves on, it is clear it is well written, too bad there is no hook, although someone oiling the knees comes pretty darn close to hooking me.

First thing said:

"What took you so long, saamaleyl?"

There are some foreign words and weird sounding names in this so if you don't mind losing a filling trying to pronounce some words, go for it. Overall, this type of book isn't usually written with a hook (character and conflict, strikingly out of the ordinary) on page 1; instead, they try to put the reader into a trance with beautiful words and images, hoping that they will be hypnotized into reading more. The hook is soft and gentle. Readers won't notice they're even hooked until they are way into the book and unable to put it down. Once they're hooked, they'll wonder: When did that happen?

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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