Sunday, July 10, 2011
Fiction: In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda
Date: August 9, 2011
Acquired: from publisher
Read: for review (I received this book in return for a fair and honest review, etc.)
Reading time: six days (due to reading one section a day in between other books)
From GoodReads: One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, and don't steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn't there. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. In a book that takes a true story and shapes it into a beautiful piece of fiction, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah's remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum aged fifteen. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of dangerous border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, find help from an Italian family and meet Fabio Geda, with whom he became friends. The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah's engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda's subtly simple storytelling. In Geda's hands, Enaiatollah's journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.
My review: The strength of In the Sea There are Crocodiles comes from readers' unfamiliarity with the story it tells. The novel is an eye-opener to conditions in Afghanistan in 2000 as well as the lifestyles of illegal immigrants in the Middle East and the systems that they use to travel to other countries in search of better lives. It's quite amazing to trace how Enaiatollah, between the ages of ten and fifteen, managed to successfully navigate these systems and make it to Italy largely on his own. Yes, he runs into friends and other kind people who help him on his way, but none of these are there for a majority of his journey. Unfortunately, I missed an emotional connection with his story that many other readers have felt. The narration seems distant from the events of the novel. The innocence of Enaiatollah's childhood is preserved, but it often seems like his feelings are not, and this distance is what makes me view this book as rather average despite its amazing story.
Do you ever feel bad because you didn't enjoy a book you felt you should have enjoyed?