My rating: 4.5/5 stars
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Thank you Brie of Eat Books for giving me a copy of this book.
The Magic of Saida tells the haunting story of Kamal, a successful Canadian doctor who, in middle age and after decades in North America, decides to return to his homeland of East Africa to find his childhood sweetheart, Saida. Kamal’s journey is motivated by a combination of guilt, hope, and the desire to unravel the mysteries of his childhood–mysteries compounded by the fact that Kamal is the son of an absent Indian father from a well-to-do family and a Swahili African mother of slave ancestry. Through a series of flashbacks, we watch Kamal’s early years in the ancient coastal town of Kilwa, where he grows up in a world of poverty but also of poetry, sustained by his friendship with the magical Saida.
This world abruptly ends when Kamal is sent away by his mother to live with his father’s family in the city. There, the academically gifted boy grows up as a “dark Indian,” eventually going to university and departing for Canada. Left behind to her traditional fate is Saida, now a beautiful young woman. Decades later, Kamal’s guilt pulls him back to Kilwa . . . where we discovers what happened to Saida during a harrowing night of sinister rites. This complex, revelatory, sweeping and shocking book, is a towering testament to the magical literary powers of M.G. Vassanji.
This book humbled me, repeatedly.
When I read the blurb and saw “East Africa,” I thought, great! I just did a bunch of research on East African culture (for work,) so I am gonna get ALL the cultural references. I was hardly past the first page when I realized that, um, no. First of all, my research was on Somalia and Ethiopia, and East Africa encompasses way more than just those countries. Continue reading
I’m back at work and feel like I’m struggling to read my minimum ten pages per day, yet I still have updates! And on the 1st of the month, too! WHO AM I?
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. 3/5 stars. This was my first official Classics Club selection, and I didn’t love it. There are only so many times I can read the word “languid” before it loses all meaning (and I like the word languid!) But I did appreciate the main character, who was thoroughly modern. Review to follow!
- Belinda’s Rings by Corrina Chong. 4/5 stars. Loved it. Completely original and completely familiar at the same time. The only book I can compare it to right now is White Oleander. I know some people didn’t like White Oleander, but I did, so that’s a compliment. Review and hopefully author Q&A to follow!
- The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji. In progress. I’m struggling to get into this book. I’m not sure what’s holding me back. The writing is great and the story is compelling. Maybe I’m getting bogged down in details, as I am wholly unfamiliar with Tanzanian history and culture. I’m not giving up yet!
- But one is on its way. The kind people at MacEwan Book of the Year are sending me a copy of Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. I know very little about it, but I love the title!
Books I Want to Read – adding to the To Be Read pile
- Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer. Book Riot says, “Buy It. Buy All The Copies You Can Find, and Use the Extras To Decorate Your Town With Amazing Prose.” And I say, okay then.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke. This was suggested to me when I was let down by The Night Circus.
- Bumped by Megan McCafferty. It’s YA, but I’m intrigued by the premise – in a society where adults have become infertile, teenage girls become surrogates in droves. Brought to my attention by this post at Book Riot (love that site!)
Bonus: #Yeg Literary Events
I’ve noticed an upswing in literary events in Edmonton. Here are just a few.
- Pecha Kucha Night 15 is at The Expo Centre on March 7, 2013. Jason Lee Norman will speak about the 40 Below Project (if you’re paying attention, you might remember I submitted a story. It was rejected, but the email was VERY nice,) and Caylie Gnyra from Little Cree Books will speak about “Language Ally.” And look at the gorgeous Night Circus inspired poster!
- Rosina, the Midwife by Jessica Kluthe launches at Spinelli’s Bar Italia on March 23rd, 2013. I probably can’t make it, but I am really looking forward to this book! Check out the Facebook page for the event.
- The MacEwan Book of the Year for 2013 is The Cat’s Table by Michael Odaantje, and the author will appear on March 21st at MacEwan downtown campus. I’m buying my ticket tonight. For $22 I will get a copy of the book, get it signed, and hear Odaantje talk about it. What a deal! There is also a FREE panel discussion about the book on March 7th at 12:30pm. All the details are here.
- Check out the Metro Writers in Residence website for lots of writing-focused events. I attended a discussion about blogging this past Sunday. Not only was it free and super informative, but I met one of the Writers in Residence, Omar Mouallem, and blogger extraordinaire Shareen Ayoub – go check her out; I guarantee you’ve read nothing like it! Mini-review of the blogging session to follow!
And now, I have reading to catch up on. And sleep. Not necessarily in that order.