It took me quite a while to get into this book, I kept putting it down because it just wasn't grabbing me. Having given four stars to Lyric's Alley by the same author this was a bit disappointing, but I persevered and as a result I have learned about a time in history that I was totally unaware of. And there was a reward - it turns out that during a trip to Georgia I had actually visited the villa where Anna and her children were spending that fateful summer.
I had thought when reading, that I enjoyed the contemporary story most, but as I start to write this review, I realise that it is the story of Shamil and Anna that has stuck with me.
Leila Aboulela recently attended our Literary Festival and was talking about the problems of assimilating into Scotland. I wonder if I was relating her experiences to those of Natasha, the main character in the contemporary parts.
The main character of the historical section was Imam Shamil, the 19th century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. Although a warrior leader, the author attributes him with a very genuine, caring nature and he treats his prisoners with respect.
This was a book group read and I don't think anyone had heard of Imam Shamil before reading this book. I'm glad to say that the others all gave higher ratings than I did, so you may consider me a minority and ignore my rating if you wish :)