Friday 17 September 2021

The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani, trans Sam Taylor @SamTayl66360996 @FaberBooks @laurennicoll_ #TheCountryOfOthers #BookReview


1944. After the Liberation, Mathilde leaves France to join her husband in Morocco.

But life here is unrecognisable to this brave and passionate young woman. Her life is now that of a farmer's wife - with all the sacrifices and vexations that brings. Suffocated by the heat, by her loneliness on the farm and by the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner, Mathilde grows increasingly restless.

As Morocco's struggle for independence intensifies, Mathilde and her husband find themselves caught in the crossfire.

From the internationally bestselling author, The Country of Others is perfect for fans of Elena Ferrante, Tracy Chevalier, and Maggie O'Farrell.

The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani was published in hardback on 5 August 2021 by Faber and is translated by Sam Taylor. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I am a huge fan of this authors first two novels; Adèle, and Lullaby and have been looking forward to The Country of Others for some time. This novel is something of a departure for the author. It's the first in a planned trilogy and is based on her family history. The story begins toward the end of the second world war, so can be classed as historical fiction, and very different to her two contemporary novels. 

Once again Sam Taylor has expertly translated Slimani's French prose into a stunning story. 

However, just like her previous books, this is beautifully written and drew me in from the very first page. Once again, this author shines when creating strong female characters who are constantly battling wars. It is not just world war that Mathilde, the lead character, has to face up to, but the huge battle that her marriage often becomes. She faces hardships in a strange land, after marrying Amine, a Moroccan solider that she met when he was fighting in France. 

Mathilde moved from her home in Alsace, France to Amine's home; a rurally isolated farmhouse in Meknes. Slimani writes so descriptively. The countryside, the city, the people and the landscapes are all brought vividly to life for the reader. As someone who knew very little about Morocco and its history, I learnt so much from this story. 

The constant battle for independence from the French colonial rule is expertly portrayed, and the effects on Mathilde. a French woman married to a Moroccan man, who has children of mixed heritage is especially poignant.

There are times that the reader shares Mathilde's despair as her husband agrees with and allows the intensely patriarchal society to impact on her life, and that of her daughter and also her sister in law. There are scenes that are heartbreaking and quite devastating, but it is Mathilde's strength of character that shines through. She is able to pass on her wisdoms to those she has to live amongst and whilst not wholly accepted, she does become a valued member of the community. 

The Country of Others is a powerful, moving story that proves that this talented author can write historical fiction just as well as her contemporary stories. I was totally swept away by the prose, the characters and the setting and eagerly await the next in the series.

Leïla Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize,
the Prix Goncourt, which she won for Lullaby. 

A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. 

Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1970, Sam Taylor began his career as a journalist
with The Observer. 

In 2001, he quit his job and moved to southwest France, where he wrote four novels, learned French, and raised a family.


In 2010, he translated his first novel: Laurent Binet's HHhH.


He now lives in the United States and works as a literary translator and author.

Twitter @SamTayl66360996

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