Contented Reader

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An Unnecessary Woman

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An Unnecessary Woman

Rabih Alameddine

I added this to my list of things to read back when the longest for the National Book Award was announced, months ago.  This is a thing I do.  I read the lists of books nominated for awards, and make a note of the things that are of interest to me, and then, eventually, I get around to actually reading them.  No rush.  I’m not a professional book critic, after all, just a reader, and there’s no particular reason that I have to get that brand new book read while other people are still talking about it.

This time, I was in no hurry at all to get to it.  It waited for me, there on the things to read list, but whenever I looked at it, I chose something else instead.  It just looked so serious, with its solemn silhouette and its glowing reviews.  So literary.  I love a serious book, but they also take a level of focus and attention and participation that I don’t always want to give.  Sometimes, after a long day of trying to convince tweens that it’s worth their time to learn to read, I’d rather read something light and funny, because I just don’t have that much more to give.

But now it’s Christmas vacation, so with two weeks away from work, I checked this out from the public library, and… I was wrong to put it off so long.  Because it’s charming.  Just charming.  Delightful, even.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s serious, this story of Aaliya, who lives in the wreckage of war-devastated Beirut, estranged from everyone and connected to the world only by the thin threads of her collection of French and English books, her never-read translations, and the voices of the downstairs neighbors.  But it has so many funny bits that it wasn’t the forbidding task that the cover and the reviews made me expect.

I suspect I’m not the only book lover who will relate strongly to Aaliya, who is almost perfectly isolated from everything but literature and usually prefers it that way.  I connected so strongly to her that I tended to forget that this was a story about a person from a very different culture, in a very different place.  After all, once you are locked safely into your home, at your comfy chair with a good book, what does it matter whether the view out the window is of Ohio or Lebanon?

I think I’ll come back to this, in a year or so, for a re-read.  There are layers here, and I never get layers on the first read.

Written by Contented Reader

December 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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