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A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali [Kindle Edition]

Gil Courtemanche
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide.
All manner of Kigali residents pass their time by the pool of the Mille-Collines hotel: aid workers, Rwandan bourgeoisie, expatriates, UN peacekeepers, prostitutes. Keeping a watchful eye is Bernard Valcourt, a jaded foreign journalist, but his closest attention is devoted to Gentille, a hotel waitress with the slender, elegant build of a Tutsi. As they slip into an intense, improbable affair, the delicately balanced world around them–already devastated by AIDS–erupts in a Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsi people. Valcourt’s efforts to spirit Gentille to safety end in their separation. It will be months before he learns of his lover’s shocking fate.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bernard Valcourt is a Canadian journalist in Rwanda planning a film on the local AIDS epidemic when he falls in love with Gentille, a Tutsi who works at his hotel at the time of the Hutu-led genocides. Chronicling the days of the government-sponsored atrocities, Courtemanche's novel is powerful in its ability to remind us how much the myth of race has done to divide and destroy the human species in the past hundred years. At the same time, however, it strains to position itself as a sort of neo-existentialist tome, quoting Camus and echoing The Plague. Valcourt describes himself without irony as "sophisticated... an enlightened humanist," and yet his childish self-pity and bitter refusal to accept life's harsh realities are less the trappings of a great intellectual than the alcoholic he obviously is. From the swimming pool terrace of the H"tel des Mille-Collines in Kigali, he observes the rapidly deteriorating situation, "rather like a buzzard on a branch... waiting for a scrap of life to excite him." His supposedly spiritual love for Gentille is intended to redeem him, but it most often takes the form of a rhapsody over her "perfect" body. The Rwanda painted by Courtemanche (a Canadian journalist himself) is a country bloodied by ignorance, hatred, sexual obsession and lust for power, as terrifying and darkly obscene as anything imaginable. Tragic and deeply touching at turns (and illuminating from an historical perspective), the novel is nevertheless cheapened by Valcourt's muddled sentimentalizing and adolescent grandiloquence. As Einstein said, everything is either meaningless or miraculous. Most often it's romantics who, becoming cynics, embrace the former.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In recounting the 1994 massacre of Rwanda's Tutsis by the majority Hutus, Courtemanche fictionalizes the thoughts and actions of real participants, but the horrors he describes were all too real. At the story's center lies the improbable love that blossoms between Canadian journalist Bernard Valcourt and Gentille, a shy Hutu waitress at Kigali's Mille-Collines Hotel. Valcourt and Gentille speak out against the brutal attacks that presage the genocide but make no headway with corrupt police, impotent UN forces, oblivious Western media outlets, and postcolonial Belgians and French who helped sow the seeds of racial superiority in Rwanda and then retreated when they bore deadly fruit. It's a powerful political novel about important world issues, which hardly ensures an audience here. As Valcourt notes, "In my country the sickness is complacency. In France it's arrogance, and in the United States it's ignorance." That this book would introduce many U.S. readers to events that killed some 800,000 people underscores how fatal our willful ignorance of foreign affairs can be to the world's powerless. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 354 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0676974821
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,541 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written account by a soulless journalist March 3, 2005
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the author portrays racial attitudes, the nature of violence and propaganda that led to the Rwandan genocide, and, for most Westerners, odd Rwandan values with respect to death and disease, exceedingly well. You have to understand the history of the country from colonial times to pre-genocide antagonism between Hutus and Tutsis, sentiments towards mortality and sex (the author uses some jaw-dropping examples to illustrate some rather stark differences), and foreign nationals' eagerness to exploit tensions or blithely ignore them, if you have any hope of understanding how close to 1 million people could be butchered in cold blood by their compatriots over the span of a few months. To this end, Courtemanche writes skillfully and chooses incidents that leave indelible images in the reader's mind. (Many are horribly gruesome, but there is no point is sugar-coating something as horrible as this)

That said, it's almost impossible not to loathe this man. (SPOILER AHEAD) First, his courtship of a woman younger than his daughters, and, because of her ethnicity, in perpetual danger, smacks of exploitation, no matter how artfully he dances around it. And most sickeningly, he ignores his wife's pleas to leave as racial tension mounts (friends are murdered around him, and Gentille is given her fair share of warnings of what will happen to her), and refuses to evacuate them from Rwanda. He knows, as a white man, he is in no danger. He complains that he is bored by his native Canada, and would miss the lush Rwandan landscape terribly if he were to leave it. But to not think of the lives of your own wife and adopted child? When he offers that he always knew he would lose her, it makes you almost want to scream.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant Lament July 3, 2004
A beautifully written story, which is more autobiography than fiction, but I suspect no newspaper was interested in this journalist's eye-witness account of a people betrayed in a preventable Holocaust. Cushioning what happened in Rwanda in a work of fiction is the only catharsis Gil Courtemanche could achieve. In his dedication of the book, he names those in real life whom he does not disguise with pseudonyms in the actual story, and as it turns out, the lovely but tragic Gentille was a very real person. Originally written in French, none of this journalist's imagery and lyrical phraseology is lost in Patricia Claxton's English translation. Maybe she even enhanced it.
At first, Courtemanche's description of the Canadian UN Force Commander as the "weak general" angered me for, from today's perspective, it is an unfair judgment, but if I were in this journalist's shoes at the same time in history with the same background knowledge he had then, I too would have been furious at the UN general's apparent ineffectiveness to prevent the genocide of a race, the Tutsis, and their moderate Hutu sympathizers by extremist Hutus that followed. I was in Rwanda in 1994 covering the humanitarian relief program for UNIMIR. I arrived at a time when we finally had a different perspective of this "weak general." The UN refused to give him permission to take action, and he has suffered inconsolable guilt as a result. Nevertheless, this "weak" general risked his life and his career to stay with the people he came to love by disobeying the UN's command to come home once the genocide began. He was told to let the civil war take care of itself.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is purient garbage, don't waste your money September 6, 2004
By Charles
I was in Kigali before and during the war. I saw the massacres first hand. This book absolutely disgusts me. It is nothing more than a very badly written, factually very inaccurate, attempt to make money on the backs of the dead. Do not waste your money. There are many well written books about the genocide, such as We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch or the new one by General Dallaire, who was the head of the UN Peacekeeping Force. Shake Hands with the Devil : The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern tragedy celebrating our humanity July 25, 2004
A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali takes place in the massacre ridden land of Rwanda. It is a modern tragedy akin to Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and other celebrated works of literature. Courtemanche is brilliant as he constructs the story of a Canadian journalist in Rwanda who falls in love with a local woman whom he cannot have nor can he help. This novel is a celebration of a human life which is destined to a tragic ending but its characters are brave, innocent, and very much alive. Gentille, the beautiful Rwandan courted by the journalist Valcourt. The guilt of the United Nations, the Americans, the Belgians, the French, and the rest of the "civilzed world." All is explored and all is ridiculed for its inaction and its permission for an all out massacre in the nation of Rwanda.

This book is both a celebration and condemnation of life. One leaves it heartbroken but optimistic, bitter but moved. It is classified as fiction but the sin of allowing such a massacre to occur is spread deep into our souls. This book will open your eyes to a world which is deeply imperfect and the locusts will feast.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important and Painful Story within the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda
This book gives you great insight into the kindness and humanity in Rwanda in 1994 that was intermingled with the brutality and hatred and meanness. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Tim F. Merriman
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali
Although this piece of literature is hard to "stomach" it is very well written and highly readable. have to admit that it took me a long, long time to finish -- probably because... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Camilla Blain
4.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Read
I had to read this book for a college english class; it's not a book that I would typically choose to read on my own. Read more
Published on July 21, 2011 by Skarah007
1.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, graphic violence and gratuitious sex!
According to Mr. Courtemanche, all people do in Rwanda is butcher each other, screw and spread AIDS. Read more
Published on December 24, 2009 by Scandia
5.0 out of 5 stars We can all turn into killers, even the most peaceful of us."
Every Sunday afternoon in Kigali, Rwanda, the pool at the Mille-Collines Hotel is a gathering spot for government workers, wealthy Rwandans engaged in various trades, aid workers,... Read more
Published on May 23, 2009 by Mary Whipple
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a disturbing but revealing account
The first time I read this book was in French back in 2003. Reading it in English still has a chilling effect on me. I still feel haunted. Read more
Published on December 10, 2008 by S. Ekweh
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately understated, but also an over-reaction
For me, Gil Courtemanche's book, A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali, bore a great similarity to the screenplay for the film Hotel Rwanda. Read more
Published on November 22, 2008 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars Incendiary, Tender, Life-affirming -- Ultimately Unforgettable
"A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali," by Gil Courtemanche, is a searing story of love and redemption set against the backdrop of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Read more
Published on January 29, 2008 by B. Case
5.0 out of 5 stars Cry, the Beloved Continent
The Publisher's Weekly review pans the Canadian journalist Valcourt for his weaknesses, just as Cyprien does in the story. Read more
Published on August 23, 2007 by John L. Tucker
4.0 out of 5 stars Love at the Edge of the Abyss
"A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali" is a sad and haunting novel about two improbable lovers -- a weary Canadian journalist and a young Rwandan barmaid -- who try to claim their ration... Read more
Published on June 17, 2007 by not me
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