This is a highly original book. It crosses time and continents in the most unusual way to tell a universal story.
In one respect it can be read like a series of short stories, which I thought it was until I realised that each part was a continuation from the last, but shifted fifty or a hundred years later and in a different country. The similarities of the struggles, relationships and attitudes from life are what connects them all.
It opens in AD 1, at the time Herod is killing all of the baby boys. The language is almost Biblical but it is in keeping with the times and becomes more modern as the story progresses. Written in the first person, the nameless boy has a brother, sister and a cousin as well as his parents. His growing up continues in different centuries until the present (2016) and beyond in the epilogue. The places include Iran, Nepal, Sweden, Italy, Palestine and Ireland, amongst many others.
This is not a fast read but interesting to see how people remain as people throughout the turbulence of history. In each time and place is a principled boy and man who suffers from not quite fitting the gender stereotypes while the women always are subjected to cruelty and misogyny whose only purpose is to serve men. There are prejudices too, against minorities and the disadvantaged. The themes are, simple enough: “We are all alike, men and women. As we were at the birth of time, and as we will be at its death.”
The only part that seemed a little disjointed was the final chapter set in 2016, which came across as a bit of a political rant against President Trump, and the bizarre epilogue that saw his death. However, this is one of the most unusual and clever works of fiction ever. Worth reading.
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