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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When the Moon is Low

Nadia Hashimi had me from the first paragraph in When the Moon Is Low (#547), a novel about an Afghan refugee family seeking asylum in the West.

Fereiba tells us of her childhood in Kabul in the 1970s.  Her mother dies giving her birth, so she and her brother grow up with a stepmother who favors her own daughters over Fereiba.  Fereiba manages to overcome enormous obstacles to achieve her dream of receiving an education and becoming a teacher herself.  She and her husband survive the Russian occupation, but the Taliban is another story.  After the Taliban come for her husband one night, Fereiba knows that she must leave Afghanistan with her three children if any of them are to survive. 

The harrowing story of their flight from Afghanistan is told from two viewpoints: Fereiba's and that of her adolescent son, Saleem.  He becomes separated from the rest of his family in Greece and each party must make its way separately towards London, with the promise of family there.  Ms. Hashimi doesn't quite close the circle on this story, but the reader is left with the feeling that Fereiba and Saleem have strength enough between them to bring about their own happier ending.

It is so easy to see the parallels between this story and those we hear coming out of Syria these days, that it doesn't take very much imagination to picture the conditions under which the Waziri family fled their home, seeking a better life.  I couldn't put this book down, or out of my mind when I finished reading it.

The English Spy

Daniel Silva knows how to write a gripping revenge novel.  In The English Spy (#546), art restorer and soon-to-be chief of Israeli Intelligence Gabriel Allon is back, with more at stake than ever.

When a popular British Royal dies while on a Mediterranean cruise it's not clear whether her death was an accident or an assassination.  When it proves to be murder, the question becomes "Who paid the assassin?"  There are a number of leads pointing in opposite directions until he is tentatively identified as an old nemesis of British Intelligence from the IRA, legendary bomber Eamon Quinn.  But was the killing of the Princess the end game, or is it only the start of a cat and mouse game involving Gabriel Allon and his sometime partner Christopher Keller?

This is a good book to curl up with on a cold winter's day.  The twists will keep you guessing until the very end.