First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ian Thomas Shaw, and Guernica Editions for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
New to the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I jumped at the opportunity to read one of his books, which mixes some powerful political drama surrounding the Middle East with some heartfelt emotional growth by his protagonists. In a story split between two time periods, the reader is introduced to two journalists. One, Marc Taragon, is a young man who has travelled to the Middle East in the mid-1970s to learn Arabic. However, with the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, the region is turned into a war zone and Taragon cuts his teeth on some of the most sensational and difficult to describe journalism of his life. The other, Canadian journalist Marie Boivin, who is coming of age in 2007 and has been sent to write a number of articles about Taragon. Her time with him is spent mostly around Europe, but shrouded by an Israeli-Palestinian clash that could soon get out of control. While both journalists face issues as they cover their stories, the region remains a powder keg, with brother turning against brother, in an attempt to bring religious and political stability—and superiority—to a head. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more than the politics to be solved, with both Taragon and Boivin harbouring their own inner angst and desire to understand something within themselves. While the region remains volatile and the groups continue to shift, one can only hope that some clarity will come to provide a ray of hope that progress can be made, personally, if not politically. A refreshing and raw look at Middle East politics with heartfelt drama and intrigue throughout. Those who enjoy a weightier political thriller will likely want to get their hands on this book.
This being my first foray into the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I was unsure what I ought to expect. He is able to weave together a complex story with ease, pulling not only on strong political themes that have made splashes across newspaper headlines, but also give life to his characters that pose as vessels through which the story can move from one point to the next. Marc Taragon is a strong-willed protagonist whose development throughout the piece is evident. His youthful ways shine through in the early stages of the narrative, in the region to learn the language, but his inquisitiveness is also present, helping him not only as a journalist, but also a character with whom the reader can relate. As the story progresses and he becomes the guide with sagely advice, his character seems to grow and become more respected, even though he is still but a pawn in the region as a whole. Marie Boivin has flashes of the Taragon gumption throughout, though her inquisitiveness seems primarily focussed on her subject and landing the best interview possible. I got the feeling that the Middle East backdrop was secondary for her, which turned important as radical change took place and she was thrust into the middle of something chaotic. The reader learns much about both characters as the story progresses, both their public image as well as the inner workings of their minds. Many of the other characters sprinkled throughout this piece prove effective at creating a wonderful story that tells of some of the less glorious sides of the Middle East clashes. Shaw speaks of religious and cultural clashes throughout the narrative, breathing life into these themes by giving his characters important roles. The reader is able to see the struggle through these men and women, sympathising with them throughout, while making connections with others at times. Shaw shows that he is able to develop a strong story that works on many levels, speaking to the political and cultural situation in the region, as well as the questions displacement leaves in the minds of many. I could not pull myself away at times, as the story became enveloping and kept me on the edge of my seat. Shaw depicts the clashes and the ever-vigilant people so well, while pulling on the reader’s heartstrings to sense the importance of what is going on. This is truly one the of great parts of this piece, in that it seeks less to inform and more to help the reader to feel what is taking place, a true asset. A mix of short and longer chapters provides the story with a wonderful mix to propel the reader forward, hooking them and then giving detailed accounts of the goings-on. This is an effective use of the narrative and exemplifies Shaw’s great writing style. I am extremely interested in seeing what else Shaw has out there for readers and if some of the other work is just as involved as this strong piece of literature.
Kudos, Mr. Shaw, for a wonderful glimpse into the world of Middle East politics with a human touch. I was quite impressed with the balance throughout and hope others find the book just as engaging.
This book fulfils Topic #5: Wild About Books! for the Equinox #6 Book Challenge
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons