Friday, October 01, 2021

Reader's Diary #2238 - Omar El Akkad: What Strange Paradise

Omar El Akkad's novel What Strange Paradise is getting a lot of praise. And no wonder, it's very topical and has a lot of heart. 

It follows a young Syrian immigrant named who was lucky enough to have survived a harrowing illegal sea crossing, washing up on the shore in Greece, only be hunted by the army. Luckily, a local teenage girl named Vänna decides to help him out.

There are so many well developed themes in the book, it would make for an excellent book club pick: escape (Vänna herself wants to escape her own troubled life), compassion, hope, cynicism, and so on. It's also laid out wonderfully, fluctuating between before (dealing with Amir's boat voyage and the strangers he'd met) and after (being chased across the Greek island). Besides keeping the book from ever growing monotonous, it also makes you never able to forget Amir's backstory and the lives of the other refugees. 

My sole issue was the authenticity of Amil and Vänna. Told in the 3rd person, El Akkad nonetheless attempts at times to describe their thoughts. However they seemed too mature and too literary and too similar to one another to convince me they were thoughts of an 8 year old boy and a teenage girl. 

Nonetheless, I still liked the book overall. 

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