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Olives Paperback – November 20, 2011
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"McNabb's attempt to portray a more complicated Middle East is important. Its potential impact on Western audiences shouldn't be underestimated."
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Top customer reviews
If - on the other hand - you possess a more nostalgic and romantic vein with a predilection for a silver lining at the end of a long, grim tunnel - this is NOT your book. The author does a good job of burning every "feel good" bridge behind him and leaves his characters no opportunity to turn back..
Having said that - he lays out with a broad brush a picture of a Country caught up in the violence and extremism of the Middle East and its struggle for control what is considered by many in the Middle East the most precious of commodities: WATER.
It is a tale of conflict, opportunism, bitterness and religious intolerance.
And all surrounded by a love story that will never star Ali McGraw and Ryan O'neil. It is a story of two people - from two different worlds - from two different ideologies - but with one universal trait: the ability to love . . . violently, fervently, deeply and desperately - to keep ahead of the finality they know all to well awaits them.
The author has done an excellent job of creating the mood, history and futility that exists in the struggle between the (perceived) "Cruel and Unrelenting Zionism" of the State of Israel and "Fanatical Religious Fervor and violence" of the Arab world that feels it has been intruded upon.
You may choose your side and stake your philosophical, religious and moral claims to which side is right. Perhaps we can review this all in 50 or 100 years.
A very gripping read that will inevitably reach the fork in the road between the realists and the romantics. I have already stated where this will eventually end. It would have gotten five stars but I have to be honest and admit I reside in the "Romantic" camp.
The story follows young journalist Paul Stokes as he arrives in Jordan to produce a magazine on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources; he quickly runs afoul of the law, develops a relationship with his Palestinian coworker, Aisha Dajani, as well as with her wealthy and well-connected family, and is approached by less-than-savory British official, Gerald Lynch, to spy on the Ministry and the Dajanis over water resource projects. These water projects are also being bid upon by British companies and are of great concern to the Israeli government.
While Mr. Stokes seems to be adept at his primary vocation, he is well out of his depth when it comes to dealing with the unfamiliar social and political situations he has been thrust into, and spends a good deal of time fretting over his actions, and not without reason. While his occasional social faux pas might be smoothed over with time and patience, doubt is placed in his mind about the motives of Aisha and the Dajanis, who are rumored to have ties to terrorism. And though compelled by his tenuous legal situation and Lynch's badgering, he has no stomach for the illicit gathering of information that has been assigned to him.
As the relationship between Paul and Aisha develops, the reader gets to know more about her family and the effect that the invasion and occupation of Palestine had and continues to have on them. While her family has parlayed their dispersion into a successful merchant enterprise that spans the Middle East, the loss of their own homeland weighs on them daily, while those relatives who remain in what is left of their family's farmland in the West Bank daily face the pressures imposed on them by the constant Israeli encroachment. Appropriately, these realities give weight and urgency to the political game being waged in the story.
Mr. McNabb's story telling and pacing are quite absorbing and will keep the reader interested throughout. I did find the first chapter to be a bit hurdle-ish; it seemed too much of an attempt to open the book artfully and with a slow reveal, but it didn't quite come off for me. Still, it did serve the purpose and was better than stark exposition. And once into the second chapter the story progresses at a very even pace and builds admirably. It definitely proceeded into "couldn't put it down" territory.
The motives of some of the the characters are a bit murky. The story is told solely from Paul Stoke's perspective, so the others' reasonings behind their actions involving him can be a bit of a mystery, certainly no less to Stokes than the reader. Why does Lynch bother with such a small fish as Stokes? Could the mild espionage he desires to have carried out not be better done by others? One might be tempted to ask why Aisha and the Dajani family take the newcomer Paul into their confidence so quickly. But then, almost all males of our species could reasonably ask what it is that their women see in them, so the mystery there could be no more than the common one.
Indeed, the darkness in which the reader is left, in some areas, is the very same that Paul Stokes is living in, and so serves well to put one a little more fully into his shoes.
The subject and setting of the book are ones that have not received enough honest exposure in Western literature. The mass of such writings that concern the Middle East in general and Palestine in particular are by far in favor of British and American motives, and too rarely question the policies or actions of the state of Israel. McNabb has provided a novel firmly aimed at a Western audience that presents the issues and situations very even-handedly. I hope to see many more and similar works from him in the future. Even more, I hope that their intended audience reads and absorbs them, to the result of a better understanding of the region.
Most recent customer reviews
The plot was very developed and complex, but I think it was too jumpy from scene to scene.Read more