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The Hired Man
by Aminatta Forna


Overview - The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in the daily lives of those touched by it.  Read more...


 
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More About The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
 
 
 
Overview
The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in the daily lives of those touched by it. With The Hired Man, she has delivered a tale of a Croatian village after the War of Independence, and a family of newcomers who expose its secrets.

Duro is off on a morning's hunt when he sees something one rarely does in Gost: a strange car. Later that day, he overhears its occupants, a British woman, Laura, and her two children, who have taken up residence in a house Duro knows well. He offers his assistance getting their water working again, and soon he is at the house every day, helping get it ready as their summer cottage, and serving as Laura's trusted confidant.

But the other residents of Gost are not as pleased to have the interlopers, and as Duro and Laura's daughter Grace uncover and begin to restore a mosaic in the front that has been plastered over, Duro must be increasingly creative to shield the family from the town's hostility, and his own past with the house's former occupants. As the inhabitants of Gost go about their days, working, striving to better themselves and their town, and arguing, the town's volatile truths whisper ever louder.

A masterpiece of storytelling haunted by lost love and a restrained menace, this novel recalls Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The Hired Man confirms Aminatta Forna as one of our most important writers.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780802121912
  • ISBN-10: 0802121918
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr
  • Publish Date: October 2013
  • Page Count: 293
  • Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.25 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


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Books > Fiction > Literary

 
BookPage Reviews

Wartime secrets left behind

In the 1990s, a war in Sierra Leone killed tens of thousands of people and shattered the country. Yet writer Aminatta Forna, who is from Sierra Leone, has dedicated her absorbing new novel, The Hired Man, to that other 1990s war-torn region, Yugoslavia, thus subtly illuminating the prolonged aftereffects of all wars.

Duro is a Croat living in the ghostly town of Gost. One day, an Englishwoman named Laura arrives with her son and daughter. Laura has purchased an old house, and enlists Duro’s help in refurbishing it—including uncovering an obscured mosaic. The gradual unveiling of its contents mirrors Duro’s gradual revelations about the area’s violent past.

At first, that past seems far away. Duro’s present life is unremarkable. He likes his coffee and daily exercise, delights in repairs and ends his days with a beer at the local pub. He becomes fond, even protective, of Laura and her children, and shares with them his country’s natural treasures, including endless fields of wildflowers. But beneath the calm beauty is pain: The wildflowers exist because the fields are mine-strewn and thus off-limits. Eventually we learn that Duro participated in the fighting, that the ownership of Laura’s house is contentious and that she is acutely vulnerable to the area’s lingering animosities.

Forna’s decision to write from the perspective of a Croatian man is risky, but Duro is exceedingly convincing: melancholy, not maudlin; stoical, not hard-boiled. He tries to be hospitable and open to Laura while playing down his loss. “Laura,” he muses, “was one of those people who preferred the music of a lie to the discordance of truth.” His memories of the war are an impressive record of the so-called banality of evil.

Nowadays, Croatia’s beaches are as popular as the war was abhorrent, but Forna’s point is taken. Whether you’re gazing at Angkor Wat, dining in once-occupied Paris or having your burek and rakija in Gost, you’re standing on haunted ground.

 
BAM Customer Reviews