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The Hired Man Hardcover – October 1, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this moving novel from Forna (The Memory of Love), the scars left by the Croatian War of Independence underlie a deceptively simple account of a Croat developing a relationship with foreigners moving into his village. Exactly what Duro Kolak experienced in the fighting that enveloped Gost, his small town, is only hinted at for much of the book, creating a suspenseful backdrop. As the story opens in 2007, Duro meets Laura, an Englishwoman who has arrived in Gost with her family to start a new life. He offers her his assistance, even as other locals are less than pleased to have the newcomers around. Forna does an exquisite job of contrasting her leads' perspectives on Gost—Laura thinks it's one of the most beautiful places she's ever been, while Duro sees past the tranquil surface to the region's blood-soaked recent past. This is a powerful exploration of the impact that violence has on those who suffer it and those who inflict it. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Associates. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Set in and around a small Croatian village, Forna’s (The Memory of Love, 2011) accomplished and intricate novel explores the effects of war and the endurance and significance of memory. The town of Gost is the lifelong home to 46-year-old narrator Duro Kolak, a hunter and handyman. It’s the summer of 2007 when a woman from Britain, Laura, arrives in Gost with her two teenage children, Grace and Matthew. Having purchased a long-abandoned house at the edge of town, Laura has come to fix it up to use as a summer getaway. Duro offers his services for hire, quickly befriending the family and acting as a local guide. When the remains of a mosaic are uncovered beneath a wall of plaster, Duro helps Grace with its meticulous restoration, while deflecting suspicions of the townspeople, who grow increasingly wary of the outsiders. As the house’s restoration becomes entwined with Duro’s recollections of his past, Forna leads readers to the gradual, raw revelation of a town devastated by war and haunted by the aftermath. --Leah Strauss

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802121918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802121912
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Hired Man, Forna's third novel, is a dazzling work of fiction. The novel revisits the theme of conflict and examines how it shapes people, culture and futures. After all, outside of a few privileged islands, much of the world has experienced civil conflict and war within living memory.

In this perceptively put together story, Duro, the central protagonist tells us that the English love the past, but he and his fellow countrymen love the future, because the past is the last place they want to be.

The descriptions of situation and setting, give this novel a powerful sense of place. But there is much more, a real feeling for the characters, a rythm and pace, and a counterpoint which builds a growing sense of unease in this relentless page turner. As an example of the writer's craft this book is a masterclass.

Forna's deceptively simple tale of a house restoration helping to restore those involved, helps us to discover much more about the dynamics of conflict, of how the past shapes the future and of how despite human beings' savagery towards each other, there is more that unites us than divides us.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The story is told, in 2007, by Duro, a freelance skilled labourer in the small Croatian town of Gost. Conor, the husband of Laura, an English woman, had bought a dilapidated house in the village; Laura had moved in for the summer holidays with her adolescent son and daughter, and has hired Duro to do it up. The house was very familiar to Duro, because it had belonged to old Pavic. After his death it had passed to his daughter Anka, with whom Duro had been in love when they were very young; then to her brother Kresimir. Duro and Kresimir had been friends in their youth, but now there is hatred between them, the reasons for which unfold, one after the other, in the course of the story.

While telling the story of his work for Laura, Duro reminisces, backwards and forwards, about his past. From the beginning there are hints about why so many families have left Gost, and these become stronger and stronger as the story proceeds. The little town was caught up in the bitter war that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991; but it is not until two thirds through the book that there is the first specific reference to that war. Even then Duro never gives the exact historical background of what happened; so it would help the reader to know the historical background to that war, which Duro never provides: he never even mentions the words "Serb" and "Croat" - instead of "Serb" he uses the word "Orthodox" (The Croats are Catholic). Gost was in the Krajina, a part of Croatia with a Serb majority which proclaimed its own republic, and was consequently besieged for a year. There was a cease-fire in 1992, but in 1995 the Croatians overran the Krajina.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aminatta Forna's novel The Hired Man is skillfully written and insightful, a literary work produced by an author who has no fear of complexity, and who has a gift for inserting just the right image in just the right place. The Hired Man is also thematically rich and multifaceted,especially as it illuminates the changing character of human beings in relation to developments over which they have not control but which may control them.

The Hired Man is narrated by its protagonist, Duro Kolak, a forty-six year old Croat, born and raised in the rural village of Gost. Forna's novel is presented as a journal kept by Duro and dated "September 2007." The recent date, however, may mislead the reader into expecting a snapshot, a near-contemporary account of events selected and described by Duro as they happened. Instead, as we read through the book we see that Forna works with time as an effectively non-linear phenomenon. Duro's journal begins and ends in the present, but his recollections of people and events from years gone by enable him to show the reader how circumstances came to be as we find them. Transitions from the palpable present to the vividly recollected past are sometimes made abruptly, with little or no forewarning. Nevertheless, readers who are attentive and willing to back-track and re-read a sentence or a paragraph will be able to keep things in their proper sequence without undue difficulty.

The most conspicuous object throughout Forna's novel is a time-worn, traditionally designed and conventionally appointed blue house, now occupied by outsiders, an Englishwoman named Laura and her teenage son and daughter. Laura hires Duro to help update and restore the comfort and charm of the rustic dwelling.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't say this often, but this book left me breathless.

According to the notes, Aminatta Forn has not lived in Croatia, but has lived in other troublesome parts of the world. In The Hired Man, she creates such a vivid landscape that it makes it hard to believe she wasn't there. The conflict of the early 90s in the former Yugoslavia, a civilized country that had recently hosted the Olympics, was a tourist destination of surpassing beauty, is given a human face. Duro, the narrator, the eponymous hired man who avails himself to an English family purchasing a second home in what is now Croatia, with each gutter he clears or repair he'd makes, memories of a time long suppressed in memory is unearthed, and as the house begins to come to life it raises emotions in the town with varying results. I can not in aall fairness tell more without ruining the reading experience for the next person,
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