Sunday, 2 December 2012

Somewhere Home: Nada Awar Jarrar (Lebanon).

This remarkable novel tells the story of three women, each of them far from where they came, all of whom are still searching for somewhere that can be called home.

This book was published by Heinemann in 2004. It has been out of print since 2005.

Maysa returns to the house that was her grandparents' home , in a village high on the slopes of Mount Lebanon.

Aida, long a traveller far from the land of her birth, returns in search for the man, a refugee, who was so much more of a father to her than her own

Salwa, who was taken from her homeland when a young bride and delivered to another family, another country, returns to find the person she once was.

This was a beautifully written, almost lyrical book about the lives of three Lebanese women and their extended families, all of whom are coming to terms in some way, with the need to find somewhere that they can call home - or indeed, to return to that place that once was home.  
The three women are all different in some ways, yet there are all the same, for they all feel to varying degrees, the same emotions - the reasons behind these emotions may differ, but the need is the same, the longing to return to a place of safety and security that represents to them their roots and their identity.
When we meet the first of three women, Maysa, she is a young woman who has returned to her ancestral home in the foothills of Mount Lebanon in order to give birth. Her husband meanwhile, is living in the city of Beirut. Maysa chooses to remain in the house after she gives birth, and after her daughter leaves to join her father in the city, but eventually the child reunites them, and Maysa finds that home is not a place, but rather where the heart is - with her family.
The second woman in Aida, who returns to Beirut as an older woman in order to reclaim memories of her own childhood, in particular of the Palestinian refugee who despite his own family, was more of a father to her than her real one, who fled many years before. The most moving for me at least, of the three characters was Salwa, an elderly woman who looks back on her life from her hospital bed, in  Australia (so she is indeed far from home) surrounded by children and grandchildren, listening to her stories and looking after her needs.
The book as with others from this part of the world, explores many themes, including war, emigration, early marriage and not least of all, the role that women play in these societies. One is left feeling that despite their submissiveness, these women are in fact strong characters, whose lives and identities are closely entwined with their families, in whom they play a pivotal role.
The book left me with an overriding sense of sadness, with tinged with a sense of hope - hope that things for these women and for those real Lebanese women (and of course the men with whom they share their lives) will do and has got better, as they rebuild their once beautiful city and their own disparate lives. This is a book that I would strongly recommend.

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