Alif: Review

Bruno di Maio: Come Amor

Bruno di Maio: Come Amor

Over a decade ago, in fact in 2001, I posted on the internet my novel, Alif, which has appeared in many places and some which I’d never expected.

I didn’t write it as a sex novel and there is, indeed, rather less sex contained in its pages than in, say, Women in Love or One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, but seeing as the novel is set in a State Brothel and given that one of the protagonists, Binta, is naked throughout virtually all the novel, not to mention that the central relationship in the novel is between two women there are plenty of salacious references which would normally be a natural fit for an erotic novel.

However, the well-travelled reader will have noticed that the novel’s title refers to the first letter in the Arabic alphabet and that many of the names of characters and places are of Arabic derivation. In fact, despite the fact that the main religion of the Republic of Alif is a form of Christianity, it is obvious that this fictitious society and the world it inhabits is more Arabic than Western, although it could just as easily be Eastern Europe in the years of the Cold War or indeed any nation in the World that aspires to be developed but isn’t quite yet a member of the world’s wealthiest countries. And such nations have tended towards an arbitrary legal system, some idiosyncratic cultural biases and a peculiar mix of the enlightened and the barbaric.

All this is to celebrate that my novel has been reviewed in GoodReads which can be read by following the link. The reviewer is Lbousson, an American with a voracious appetite for reading and in a very wide range indeed. I don’t know whether Lbousson is a man or a woman, but for convenience I shall refer to the reviewer as “she”. And she has written a rather nice review of Alif which can be read here. She’s also reviewed Glade and Ivory, but like Bluerabella she isn’t happy with the relatively abrupt end of the novel. (Perhaps I should have added a few more chapters after all!)

Lbousson is puzzled whether Alif A Satire is the same novel and I can assure her that it is. I don’t know why the subtitle has become conflated with the title (as it sometimes has with Omega whose subtitle is “A Satirical Phantasy”). But I am delighted that she says that my novel “was a great way to spend the weekend.”

And I can think of no greater praise than that!





Glade and Ivory: Review

Glade and Ivory

Glade and Ivory

It’s a huge treat when one of my novels gets reviewed and (let’s be honest) it isn’t something that happens every day. So I was delighted when Bluerabella chose to review my novel Glade and Ivory on a website called LibraryThing which is “a community of 1,900,000 book lovers” that “connects you to people who read what you do“. And an excellent thing it is too.

Bluerabella’s review can be found here, so there’s no need for me to quote her review in this blog. She is a fan of reading and as she makes clear in her review, Jean M. Auel‘s series of novels about the Stone Age are a particular favourite of hers. So, inevitably she compares  Glade and Ivory to the Earth’s Children series and, perhaps not surprisingly, my novel is found wanting. On the other hand, it has never been my ambition to write a novel in the style of Jean M. Auel (whose fiction I’ve still not been bothered to read), so I don’t feel too bad about that.

However, Bluerabella makes a number of points which I guess I ought to respond to, but by doing so I don’t wish to give the impression that her review isn’t considered, reasonable or worth reading in its own right. She quite rightly says that Glade is the more roundly drawn character of she and Ivory, and though it was never my intention for that to be the case I can’t deny that this is almost certainly true. She also says that the end of the story was “a little too abrupt” which again may be the case. I suppose I was worried that the kind of end I wantedwhich was to conclude with Glade’s death, Glade’s remembered acceptance into Ivory’s tribe, and the direction Ivory subsequently takes her peoplemight have been diluted by too much wordy exposition.

The only part of Bluerabella’s review that I found disturbing was when she says that “To call the novel satirical is stretching the definition of that word a bit too far”. She admits that it contrasted with the “honey-glazed sweetness like the Jean M. Auel novels are”, but that “satire has at its heart caustic wit” and that this is “wanting in this novel”

As no one has ever accused me of not being sufficiently satirical before, I think I should give Bluerabella’s view the consideration it deserves. I think she may well be right. I’m so used to thinking of my fiction as satirical, because so much of it is, that I suppose I assumed that Glade and Ivory, because I wrote it, must also be satirical.

In truth, the satire is not as obvious or as prevalent as it is in most of my fiction. It isn’t parody (even of Jean M. Auel), it doesn’t present a dystopian society, and it makes no obvious comments about the present day world. I suppose it presents a set of alternative societies and attitudes which could be seen as social commentary, but then that may not be of enough force to be considered a “satire”. It certainly isn’t Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, William Makepeace Thackeray, Alexander Pope or even Jane Austen. So, I may well be guilty as charged however much I might protest.

Still, as Bluerabella is so kind to say, Glade and Ivory  is “Recommended for those looking for a rather more depraved version of Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series”. This may never have been my original ambition, but I am of the opinion that an author’s intention is less significant than what the reader makes of what they’ve read.