Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A NovelThe brutal 1970s civil war in Ethiopia is the dramatic setting in this first novel, told from searing personal viewpoints that humanize the politics from many sides and without slick messages. The story is told in detail: between Emperor Haile Selassi in his lush palace set against the famine outside. The focus is on the family of physician Hailu, first before the revolution and then after the brutal regime takes over. His older son tries to lead a quiet life and look the other way, until Hailu is taken and tortured. The younger son joins the mass demonstrations, exhilarated that change has come, then deflated when he confronts the new tyranny. The clear narrative voices also include the women in the family and others on all sides, who experience the graphic violence, both in the old feudal system, where a rich kid regularly rapes a servant, and in the new dictatorship with torture in the name of freedom.

I thought with two boys and a father who was a doctor and the setting in Ethiopia that this would be similar to Cutting for Stone.  Unfortunately, despite starting off promising, it soon started to drag so, I am moving on to other more compelling books.

Rating: 1 Do not Recommend