Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Review: Sweetness in the Belly
Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, so good. The history, the relationships, everything was well written and fascinating. Also extremely moving. I learned so much about Ethiopia and it was an interesting insight into Islam as well.
The description of council flats was easy for me - I can picture all of that. That was part of my landscape when I lived in Edinburgh, which was also at the time having a immigrant/refuge issue (in that many Scots wanted the ability to finally be Scottish with their new parliament, but at the same time Scotland was getting an increasing number of refuges that had previously stayed more in England or at least in big cities and that was all changing.)
The friendship between Lilly and Amina made total sense to me. While being an expat isn't the same as being a refuge by far, the idea of a fast, tight friendship coming out of almost nowhere and happening really fast, based on only a few similarities, is totally my experience with expat friendships in a place where people cycle in and out in a year or two.
I thought the relationship between Lilly and Aziz made a lot of sense. It wasn't just that Aziz was her first lover, but also that she broke so many of her own religious rules to make the space in her life/mind for Aziz. To me that's the part that was really huge and to have lost him so immediately after, to have that possible guilt over having tainted him with her connection with Selassie, I can totally see why she held on to that love.
I liked learning about this particular brand of Islam with its saints. It was interesting to compare that with what I know of Christianity taking in local customs and meshing with them. I also loved the insight on how the various Muslim refuges all praying together was moving things away from traditions and cultures and to a more fundamentalist view.
I really liked Lilly as a character. I liked how distant and ghost-like she felt. I liked her interactions with those around her as she sought her place in a series of worlds that were never quite her own. I liked how she slowly grew to think of how she felt about her parents and the lifestyle she had with them - how Islam influenced her thoughts about them and how her opinions softened as she got older and realized how complex and difficult the world can be.
Also, I really hope that farenji is where the Star Trek Ferengi came from.
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