Book Review – In The Country Of Men by Hisham Matar

First published, 2007

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Nine year old Suleiman is caught up in the September Revolution in Libya. With his father’s regular business trips, Suleiman finds himself caring for his unwell mother. She tells him stories in the dark of her life and its tragedies, and it becomes clear that his mother drinks. As the story moves along, and the fears and stresses in Suleiman’s life become more complex, the young hero becomes self-destructive and actually quite dangerous.

I found myself a little unnerved by the closeness of the relationship between mother and son. I’m sure it’s pretty standard for a young boy to want to save his mother, if she needs saving, but there was an intensity to his feelings that made me rather uncomfortable.

The history of the piece was formidable, and I felt that I learnt a lot. The writing was rich and poetic, with startling imagery, and I really would have loved it if I hadn’t been so uncomfortable with the main character.