An Unnecessary… Book Review

This week I’m going to switch it up a bit. Instead of sharing a pair of articles that I’ve read, I’m going to give my thoughts on a book I just finished. This book has been sitting half read in my kindle for over five months. I used the time off during the holidays to pick it up again. It quickly grabbed my attention and I completed it just after the new year.

What I’ve Read:

An Unnecessary Woman | Rabih Alameddine

This book is character driven rather than most of the plot driven stories I’ve read previously. That’s not a knock on the book because the character behind the first person narrative is extremely interesting. The main character is a seventy two year old book translator named Aaliya. The actual timeline of the story is only about a week but you basically live out 70 years in Beirut as her mind often wanders to memories of the past.

Aaliya translates classics from English or French to Arabic. As such, many of her thoughts are punctured with quotes and lines from Russian and Greek philosophers, authors, and poets. To be honest a lot of these references go over my head but I was still able to grasp the meaning from the context of the writing. Another thing that got lost on me were the callbacks to the civil war in Lebanon during the 1990’s. I’m a bit rusty on history of the Middle East. Therefore, I had to use the internet to provide additional background to some of the events in the book.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the context of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is witty and the images of Beirut made me want to visit. To that point, I felt like I was right there with Aaliya every time she slipped into the past. Those short stories of her life, and the book overall, were immensely satisfying.

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