My rating: 5 of 5 stars
this book is like a box of truffles that never gets cloying, never overfills you, and doesn’t make you fat.
our heroine, Aaliya, is a marvelously cranky old woman who gets through her days by translating (into arabic) books that have already been translated into a second language–translations of translations. she’s divorced, has no kids, doesn’t seem to be god-bothered in any way, is hermitty, self-sufficient, and pretty much immune to social expectations.
and yes, she is a major, major book junkie.
this is the story of her life and her present, but just ’cause she’s an old woman, don’t go looking for homiletic “wisdom” or greeting-card platitudes. Aliyah is most emphatically not going to hand you any of those. the life of her mind is as an outsider, a thinker, an autodidact of extreme range, but never a cliche.
this book is jam-packed full of quotes from writers covering a range of Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East (alas, don’t look for non-European African writers or Asian writers)… but if you’re at all steeped in western lit, you’ll be thoroughly at home here. the literary allusions are even more delicious. but the best lines in the book are Aaliya’s–a sharp-tongued, hard look at politics, childrearing, marriage, war, and even compulsory education.
the best thing about this book is the sentences. how often does one get to say that?
i listened to the audiobook, and the reader does a fabulous job. but i think, speaking as a hermitty, cranky, middle-aged bibliophile, i’m going to also buy the print version. so many books mentioned in passing that i haven’t read yet….