An eloquent lament.



A fictional memoir of the intense, symbiotic relationship between an Egyptian poet and the Arab world’s greatest female singer.

In rapt, lyrical prose, Paris-based writer and journalist Nassib spins a rhapsodic narrative out of the indissoluble connection between two creative souls inextricably bound by their art. His nameless protagonists, the poet and the singer, are based on historical figures Ahmad Rami and Om Kalthoum, and their story plays out against the transformative political events of 20th-century Egypt. Returning to his nation in the early 1920s, shortly after Independence Day, the poet is invited to attend a concert at which his words are brilliantly interpreted and sung by a young peasant girl dressed as a Bedouin boy. A spark ignites between the gifted writer and the astonishing performer, and he willingly agrees to write more aching poetry for her to sing. In keeping with the nation’s mood, the singer, whose fame advances rapidly, casts aside the influence of her lowly family to personify the modernism of the new age. Dubbed the “Star of the Orient,” she spends many years unmarried, although gossip about her private life abounds. Over time, their attachment becomes a voracious, destructive factor in the poet’s life. When relations are cool between them, he understands the full measure and pain of the inhuman force uniting them, which also drives a wedge between him and his wife Hoda. The diva performs across the Arab world and at every key national event, coming to embody the country’s progress as it moves through a military coup, the rise of Nasser, then the Suez era. By the time of the Six-Day War, she is over 60, and the defeat causes a collapse, but she rallies and leads the effort to mobilize the country. Her funeral in the 1970s, and Nasser’s assassination, mark the end of hope for “eastern modernism.”

An eloquent lament.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2006

ISBN: 1-933372-07-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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