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The Watermelon Boys: A Novel (Hoopoe Fiction) Paperback – September 4, 2018
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An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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"Not only does The Watermelon Boys open with a with a pithy (and rather memorable) epigram―'The present is an arrogant time in which to live'―but it is also Tolstoyan in the number of characters and subplots."―Asian Review of Books
"As a reader, be prepared to find yourself gripped to the point where you won't want to read anything else and you will be counting down the time when you can pick the book up again just to have a few more glorious sips."―The New Arab
"Beautifully rendered in rich and evocative prose, Carwyn, Ahmad and his rich-in-love-and-humor family and friends come alive in a way that lifts the soul and sears the heart. Highly recommended."―Historical Novel Society
"Izzidien’s strength lies in her ability to take a complex history and to turn it into the heartbreakingly emotional stories that are the foundation of said history. Her writing is relatable and profound." ―Arab News
"Ruqaya Izzidien offers up an intricate tapestry of Iraq during WWI stitched up from the various points of view of a wide cast of strongly fleshed out characters moving in a space that is so well detailed in its description it actually felt as if were cinematic, playing out on an imaginary reel in this reader's mind."―BookFabulous
". . . deft touches of compassion and vulnerability that amplify the intensity in the scenes of cruelty and terror."―Media Diversified/ Writers of Colour
". . . sensitive and lyrical, her eye for detail enriching descriptive passages."―Arab Hyphen
About the Author
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A young coal mining Welshmen named Carwyn escapes an abusive homelife and finds himself also engaged in the Mesopotamia campaign. Because “a conquored man always knows conquest when he sees it,” the young Welshman teaches himself Arabic and soon he is not under the illusions being fostered on his fellow soldiers by their British commanders.
Carwyn’s and Ahmad’s fates intertwine. Neither good man can escape larger forces that bring misunderstanding, loss and bloodshed born of discrimination and betrayal.
This is the history and point of view of British intervention in Iraq that is seldom seen. Beautifuly rendered in rich and evocative prose, Carwyn, Ahmad and his rich-in-love-and-humor family and friends come alive in a way that lifts the soul and sears the heart. Highly recommended.
Top international reviews
beautiful, poignant, and powerful book. I loved the eloquent writing, depth of description and gripping storyline but mostly that this book is informed by historical accuracy, and the characters give a voice to people who were colonised and dehumanised - this alternative perspective is a much needed addition to the literary world!
In terms of the historical period, I found that I was reading about a part of British colonisation that I had never known or heard about (having been more exposed to Indian and African narratives). Izzidien proposes a provocative depiction of historical events, which I doubt would be typically read in a British classroom. Izzidien is not afraid to take the British to account in this piece and it is rather refreshing to say the least. This critical exploration makes this novel, in my opinion, a valuable and arguably necessary read for anyone who does not know about British involvement in the region as early as WWI.
Izzidien chooses an effective writing style for the story she has crafted. She skilfully recounts several tender scenes and also succeeds in creating tension and expressing passion, thus taking the reader through an emotional journey as well as a historical one. She creates a range of sympathetic and unsympathetic characters, and her female characters are particularly well constructed are they are neither cliches nor cringing naive.
Overall, I found the novel to be both historically informative and emotionally nuanced. I enjoyed reading Izzidien's writing and felt it was a brave piece of work. My biggest criticism would be that I would have liked to read even more about some of the other characters and sub-plots but also recognise that it would have been beyond the scope for a first novel. Four stars because while it was a wonderful piece of writing, I wasn't fully satiated and definitely wanted more.