From Library Journal
This loosely connected trilogy by Somalia's best-known writer first appeared in Britain a decade ago. The "dictatorship" of the series title is that of Mohamed Siad Barre, who ruled the northeast African nation until 1991. Since then, civil war has engulfed Somalia, making the novels' republication politically timely; the question of their literary value is less straightforward. The first novel in the series, Sweet and Sour Milk , follows Loyaan's investigation of his dissident brother's apparent murder. Although it is Farah's third novel, it reads like apprentice work. Scenes are clumsily developed, and the novel's progress is routinely interrupted by passages of awkward description: "The sky, or what he could see of it, flaunted, like a peacock, its starry-eyed exhibitionism." Farah writes in English, but it is clearly not his native language. Sardines , which focuses on relationships among Somali women, marks a considerable advance. Farah contrasts the Westernized attitudes of Medina with the traditional values of her mother-in-law, Idil. At stake is the fate of Medina's daughter Ubax, whom Medina is determined to save from the crippling Somali rite of circumcision. Farah writes more empathetically of women than men, here producing a richly detailed study of shifting power in a changing if politically repressive society. The trilogy concludes with the elegiac Close Sesame . The aged Deeriye studies his Koran and muses on his deceased (yet still beloved) wife, his years in prison under colonial and nationalist regimes, and his son's involvement in a revolutionary group. The political questions handled so badly in Sweet and Sour Milk are finally given human dimension. This series is recommended as a whole only for collections specializing in Third World studies. Sardines is essential for feminist collections. General readers with an interest in Africa will find Sardines and especially Close Sesame most rewarding.- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
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"A chilling exploration of corruption and terror . . . Mr. Farah has given us a powerful political statement that moves constantly toward song." --The New York Times Book Review