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Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel Hardcover – January 11, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Mengiste's novel takes a careful look at these times, reducing the grand scale of the famine and its political aftermath to understandable human terms by concentrating on one family and its friends and acquaintances in Addis Ababa, the capital. Hailu, a physician, and his wife Selam have two sons, Yonas, who is thirty-two, and Dawit, age twenty-four, a college student. Dawit inevitably becomes active in revolutionary activities which result in the overthrow of the emperor, while Yonas is more concerned with protecting his wife Sara and his four-year-old daughter Tizita.Read more ›
It is in managing to strike the perfect balance between these dialectics that a book is either successful or not. Maaza Mengiste's Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a powerful novel that successfully manages to do this. She has written a gripping tale, yet at the same time it is clearly evident that she is intent on teaching us about this very important part of Ethiopian history.
It is this aspect of Beneath the Lion's Gaze that forces a reader to ask himself/herself: what do we know of Ethiopia? On a populist level, we know about their runners. We "know" about the very public famine that was televised all over Europe and in the United States. And we "know" of Kapusinski's fictionalized tale of Emperor Haile Selassie. Which is interesting because the educated reader "knows" more about the former Emperor than of the Communist revolution that cost the lives of so many and that pitted families, neighbors and loved ones against each other.
This is precisely why Maaza Mengiste's novel is such an important work. She demands that her reader truly scrutinize what we think we "know" of Ethiopia. And to imagine a reality that has never been presented to us, the Western reader, until now.Read more ›
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is set in 1970's Ethiopia, a time of enormous upheaval: following a devastating famine and governmental inaction, student protests led to a revolution, overthrowing the hereditary monarch. The revolution was quickly co-opted by the military, which, claiming to set up a communist government, ushered in a period of terror and repression. This book covers about four years and mostly follows one extended family--a father, two adult sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughter--along with some of their friends and neighbors. The married son just wants peace, while the single one becomes a high-profile dissident; meanwhile, their father, a doctor, faces a terrible dilemma when the military demands that he treat a torture victim.
The story is interesting and the short chapters move it along relatively quickly. If you've read other books about life under oppressive regimes, you know what to expect here: there are some ugly scenes, including violence against children. But Mengiste balances the bloody parts with scenes dealing with family relations and everyday life; the book never feels like a simple news report. It is, however, far from a light read; the characters' attempts to do good consistently make things worse, and there's little hope in the inconclusive final pages.
Neither the characterization nor the writing style is anything to write home about, but even so, I rather liked the book. The author's observations and imagery ring true, and the plot kept my interest.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
No words... Sometimes when you've finished a book it's like a little personal trauma. That's how I felt... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nastasia Verheijen
This book is a novelized description of the end of the Haille Sellasie reign (1930-1975) in Ethiopia, when he was deposed by a socialist "committee" the Derg in a popular... Read morePublished 3 months ago by scm
We were there when all this happened. Accurate, as far as we know, tho' lots happened that the public never knew.Published 6 months ago by Hirut
Very descriptive of the period of Selassie's death and the Deng takeover, the novel also gives you an strong portrayal of the idealism of the youth (and others) that propelled the... Read morePublished 22 months ago by SewKap
I normally try to read the whole book and get past slow beginnings but for me this book was just not interesting. I wouldn't recommend itPublished on June 20, 2014 by Aretha
Ethiopia was for me just one more country until I read this novel. The author used historical facts together with his vivid imagination to create an extraordinary history/fiction... Read morePublished on January 9, 2014 by Ana C. Pinero Cancel
This is a dark novel about a dark time in Ethiopia. I am glad I listened to it rather than read it as I am not sure I could have stuck with the reading. Read morePublished on May 7, 2013 by Eileen Barton
A must read filled with human emotions; could not put it down; will pass it along to those who love to read as much as I do.Published on November 13, 2012 by acl