Tuesday 30 April 2013

Book review : The Paradise Guesthouse - Ellen Sussman

From looking at the title of Ellen Sussman's novel, The Paradise Guesthouse, and the front cover, with its delicate flowers framing a perfect azure sky and picture postcard landscape of misty mountains and Oriental temples, I thought I knew exactly what to expect when I turned to the first page. The setting of the novel is indeed paradisiacal as we discover Bali with its white sandy beaches and throngs of young suntanned holidaymakers looking for some fun in the sun.

Then the unthinkable happens and two enormous bombs go off, killing 222 people and injuring 446 more. The setting would seem unlikely, if this wasn't based on real life and the terrorist attack that rocked the peaceful island in 2002. The author perfectly captures the moment that the bombs went off and the sense of horror and incomprehension in the minutes and days that followed. Seeing the personal dramas of a few of the victims unfolding in the minutes before the blast really brings home how lives can change in a moment and how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can shatter destinies.

The book starts in 2003, a year after the bombing, and survivor Jamie, who lost her boyfriend in the attack, is heading back for a commemorative service and to get some closure on a part of her life that has still left a gaping wound in her soul. She wants to meet up with Gabe, the American ex-pat who pulled her from the rubble and nursed her back to health, but has she turned him into some larger-than-life hero in her imagination over the past year? As Gabe and Jamie's paths cross, the book heads back to the year before and the days just before and after the horrific events, showing how they helped each other through the difficult days following the bombs.

The book is sensitively written, with great insight into the damage that the attack caused on a personal, but also national, level. It takes an interesting look at how different people and different cultures deal with grief and mourning. It's a poignant read that offers a glimmer of hope, hinting at a period of healing and a tentative new beginning for the survivors of the blast and the island of Bali as a whole.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Canvas (21 Mar 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 147210224X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472102249

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Honour - Elif Shafak

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...