It is possibly because Dominique grew up in Algeria with her French parents, that she has such an intimate knowledge of the lifestyle and people there. She is able to convey this intimacy so fluently and comprehensively that the reader becomes enmeshed in the story.
It is a story about three generations of two families, who were once all very good friends, despite one family being French and the other Berber. It is also a story of the society and politics of the times in Algeria. Interspersed with this tale is the story of Nicolette who is the granddaughter of the French family. She and her grandfather moved to Australia (she was nine years old) when it was no longer safe to live in their village.
Nicolette has developed a skill and a passion for photography, and after working for the Herald newspaper for a time, she volunteers to go to Algeria. The President is dying, and she wishes to photograph the social reactions to his death. She is also anxious to reclaim the friendships with two people she had grown up with.
The President is taking his time to die, so Nicolette meets some journalists, who are also there to cover the event. They show her some of the seamier side of life, including gun runners and how they operate.
Using her camera as a shield, Nicolette photographs some assassinated bodies, so she understand how the system works if you fail it. We are shown how the tribal Muslims feel the need to fight for their lives and freedom, and see the senseless retaliation, from both sides.
As the journalist Stephen says “So, by the time independence is won, there are only two types of people, those that are dead and those that are left with a memory of an independence brought about by violence”. It is that memory of torture, rape and murder that lingers in the society and prevents healing.
This book is a must for people who are interested in world affairs, family stories and a very well written saga. It will hold you captive without being quite sure what ending would be satisfactory. It gives no answers, and a few explanations, but we see the effects of love and loyalty and friendship on the living.
|Distributor||New South Books|