The Far Field

I am thirty years old and that is nothing.

This library haul had a 75 percent success rate, with The Far Field being the concluding chapter (heh) of that rate.

And – as it sometimes is with good stories – with this one it’s hard to put into words what exactly is good about it. It’s not like the naive, spoiled protagonist is easy to love, nor are the other characters particularly likeable. The plot could well be called Eat Pray Love with poverty tourism, so honestly, Madhuri Vijay had the stacks against her.

But there’s so much humanity in these characters and their stories. The randomness of things, people and situations brought together and bringing the worst or the best out in each other. You could say that the protagonist leaves a trail of destruction behind, but does she even have that kind of power? What is there to destruct in a war zone?

This book is coming of age, a rapport of ordinary life in contested country, a confrontation with bias. It’s written in such an appealing way that sometimes the plot arrives second because you’re just enjoying the words.

It’s good.

The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay, Grove Press 2019

The Wall

We sprint for the ball, shoulder to shoulder, our backpacks thumping from side to side.

How children learn that the enemy is still human and that the ones allied to you can be the enemies. With Palestina versus Israel on the background.

As the title says, the story is a modern fable. Tunnels to another world, discovering that things you knew aren’t really what they are. An unlikely friendship and an evil stepfather. It’s written in a light, airy way that gives room for the story to put its weight on the reader’s shoulders. Because even though this is fiction (the author underlines that fact in the acknowledgements), this could well be happening on any side of the Wall down there in the Middle East.

I don’t know if The Wall: a modern fable will suddenly change someone’s mind on the subject, but it’s very successful in showing the hopelessness of it all. How human everyone involved is, even though it would be easier to view one side as the monsters and the other as the victims. It might leave the reader with a slightly bitter feeling: how can things down there ever change when confrontation is the only way to change minds? But it also shows that there are other kinds of confrontation than violent ones, and maybe that’s the one part that might lead to a happy ending.

The Wall: a modern fable, William Sutcliffe, Bloomsbury 2013