First published in America by Interlink Books in June 2015.
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing
How I got this book:
Swapped for on the book table at Torquay Indoor Market, Devon.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Outside of time, the legendary queen Sheherazade tells a little girl a story that has happened, and is yet to happen. Dreams of Maryam Tair brings readers to a Casablanca of myth and metaphor, of curses, witches, djinns and demons. But it is also a very present-day Casablanca: a raw, pitiless landscape of crumbling urbanism and rusty ports, of bureaucrats and student revolts, and of a deep human solitude. During the Casablanca Bread Riots of 1981, a child is born to a mother surveilled and detained. She is born with the scent of orange blossoms and a body filled with pain. They call her Maryam Tair. A special, singular child, she is prophesized to carry three perfect gifts and one relentless curse.
Richly evoking a world where magic abounds and age-old secrets are revealed, Mhani Alaoui seamlessly interweaves stories ancient and forgotten with a sprawling multigenerational family saga.
I had no idea what to expect from this novel. I thought its cover art indicated a young adult story and its lead character is a young girl for much of the narrative, however Dreams Of Maryam Tair is a wonderfully rich and lusciously detailed novel that I believe must garner dedicated fans from every age from late teens upwards. Alaoui is an incredible storyteller and I found it hard to believe that not only is this her first book, but that it hasn't been trumpeted from the rooftops. I loved every minute of reading this book!
Alaoui weaves together the ancient stories of Lilith and Adam, and Cain and Abel, and sets them into a modern-day Casablanca - a repressive society where government agents appear as black-winged demons to tear people from their homes. Narrating the story, an elderly Sheherezade breaks occasionally to smoke a pipe or listen to Leonard Cohen songs. Sheherezade is a memorably portrayed here, worldwise and cynical, but with a wicked sense of humour and fabulous shoes. Her young heroine by contrast, is introverted and thoughtful Maryam. Blighted by disability as well as overwhelming destiny, her journey takes us from high society to dank prisons to ancient talking cedar forests. Alaoui's message of equality and hope is inspirational.
This book, for me, was magical realism at its absolute best. I fully expect Dreams Of Maryam Tair to be my Book of the Month. Absolutely brilliant!
by Tabithas Cottage in
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