The Locust and the Bird

The Locust and the Bird : My Mother's Story

3.81 (778 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
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New York, 2001 As Hanan al-Shaykh travels through the streets of Manhattan to her daughter's wedding her mind is elsewhere. Remembering own secret ceremony some thirty years ago, her thoughts turn to her mother, Kamila, who was sacrificed into marriage: her absent mother who, in recent, reconciled years, has pleaded with Hanan, her daughter the writer, to tell this story. Lebanon, 1934. Kamila is nine years old when she is taken from the poverty of her childhood village in southern Lebanon to Beirut. Though she has never learned to read or write, stories, poetry and films are her passion, and she longs to go to school. Instead, she is to lead a life of domestic servitude-and worse, she has been secretly betrothed to her brother-in-law, Abu-Hussein, a man eighteen years her senior. A welcome escape from the strict household, Kamila is apprenticed to Fatme the seamstress. One day Kamila catches sight of a beautiful young man, Muhammad, sitting by a fountain. At the age of thirteen, for what will be the first and only time in her life, Kamila falls deeply in love. The following year, to her fury and anguish, Kamila is married to Abu-Hussein.
That night, he forces himself upon his child-bride and a daughter is conceived: four years later, Kamila's second daughter, Hanan, is born. In secret, but risking everything, Kamila continues to see Muhammad. But in choosing to follow her heart, she must also, agonisingly, leave behind her beloved daughters Beautifully evoking the fabric of life in Lebanon, The Locust and the Bird is a remarkable and intensely moving memoir. Told in a voice that is entirely distinctive and authentic, this unique portrait of the life of one woman gives us an astonishing insight into the lives of many others in the Arab world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 32mm | 458.13g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • B&W Inserts
  • 0747599882
  • 9780747599883
  • 1,309,982

Review quote

'It is an extraordinarily brave act for a writer to undertake to inhabit, fully and sympathetically, the life her mother lived before she was born, particularly when her mother was no jewel of wifely virtue' JM Coetzee 'A fearless, pioneering writer' Independent 'An important Arab voice which must be heard now' Giles Coren, The Times >'The Locust and the Bird puts to rest, with much gentleness and ease, every stereotype about the Arab world and its women to which we have long grown attached in its nakedly truthful and wonderfully authentic rendition of the life of the ordinary and yet remarkable Kamila, this memoir digs deep into themes of oppression, marginalization, poverty, love and survival as Kamila herself lived them: With humour, wit with extraordinary imaginativeness and barefaced fallibility.' An Nahar Newspaper, Beirut
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About Hanan Al-Shaykh

Hanan al-Shaykh is one of the contemporary Arab world's most acclaimed writers. She was born in Lebanon and brought up in Beirut, before going to Cairo to receive her education. She was a successful journalist in Beirut, then later lived in the Arabian Gulf, before moving to London. She is the author of the collection I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops and her novels include The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand and Myrrh, Beirut Blues and, most recently, Only in London, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She lives in London.
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Rating details

778 ratings
3.81 out of 5 stars
5 30% (233)
4 34% (268)
3 25% (197)
2 8% (63)
1 2% (17)
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