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Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar (thoughts)

September 20, 2011


This is shaping up to be Netgalley week here on ye olde blog! I thought it might be nice to just catch up in a series of posts, rather than spacing them out as I usually do. After this week, it will be back to business as usual, with no more than one review copy post a week (I’ve hit on a new Netgalley policy to assure that: not requesting more than four books that release in the same month…not sure why that didn’t occur to me earlier!). The good news is, that means it will be a gushy week, since I’m quick to abandon egalleys that aren’t grabbing my interest. ;)

I’ve seen lots of praise for Libyan-born, London-based Hisham Matar, and I’ve had In the Country of Men on my wish list for quite awhile. So when I saw his newest release, Anatomy of a Disappearance, I couldn’t resist putting a request in. After reading it, I understand what the fuss is about! This is a slim novel, and it has a Belle Epoque feel to it: the whole book is tinged with a kind of decaying, melancholic grandeur that just drew me in at once. It opens with an adult Nuri reflecting on his father’s disappearance, and the bulk of the story is made up of his memories of his childhood, primarily spent in Cairo but punctuated with various trips. His father, a political exile, is wealthy and intelligent, and Nuri lives a privileged life, in the material and intellectual senses. However, emotionally things are more complicated, and all of those mixed feelings are at the heart of the book. This really does feel like a grown up son trying to understand his father from a new, adult perspective, and trying to come to terms with the decisions he made. I found Matar’s depiction of Nuri’s inner life elegant and touching; the note of wistful nostalgia is just perfect. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy fiction that’s based in characters’ inner lives.

Suggested Companion Reads

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2011 6:42 am

    Eva, thanks for this review. This book is calling to me big time, as his his first book In the Country of Men. Why? Because I recently listened to a BBC World Book Club podcast which was basically an in-depth interview with Hisham Matar. It was more about the earlier book but I found it absolutely fascinating and think you’d enjoy it too.

    • September 21, 2011 10:43 pm

      Ohhh, I’ve got a few of those podcasts downloaded (I’m in the middle of the Adichie), but thanks for the heads up! I didn’t have the Matar one yet. :)

  2. September 20, 2011 6:53 am

    I too listened to the BBC World Book Club podcast and found it fascinating. I have added the book to my TBR list.

  3. September 20, 2011 8:43 am

    Thanks for this review, Eva. I read In In The Country of Men earlier this year and loved it. Now I can’t wait to read this one. I really enjoy your Suggested Companion Reads feature.

    • September 21, 2011 10:45 pm

      Thank you Gavin! I love adding a few extra titles to each post, it’s like a consolation for not being able to write 1,000+ word posts anymore. ;) I’ve been limiting myself to 3-4 or else I can spend way too much time going through my review directors/books read pages finding all sorts of connections. lol

  4. September 20, 2011 10:46 am

    Clearly we are in reading simpatico at the moment or something because this is another book that I’ve acquired but not yet read… this time I borrowed it from my library’s e-book division, and I’ve skimmed the first few pages and think the writing is strong so I was intending to keep going, but now I certainly will given your high praise!

    • September 21, 2011 10:43 pm

      Oh it’s fun when I happen to be reading the same books as another blogger! Both of these are short too, hehe.

  5. September 20, 2011 2:40 pm

    This book is calling my name big time and I do like books about inner lives. Thanks.

  6. September 20, 2011 3:27 pm

    Sounds really interesting, definitely sounds like an author I should check out – thanks.

  7. September 20, 2011 7:35 pm

    This books sounds good. Thanks for the review!

  8. September 21, 2011 2:37 am

    I read this not long ago and completely agree. I loved it!

  9. lubylou12 permalink
    September 21, 2011 4:43 am

    I started reading In The Country Of Men but lost the book on the bus!! Such a shame because I was starting to get into it. I’ve heard great things about this book though and can’t wait to read it. I love fictiobn that is based on inner lived and feelings so should be a winner : )

  10. September 24, 2011 12:03 pm

    I simply love everything that Hisham Matar wrote and I count him as my favourite writer. In the Country of Men is really good you mustn’t miss it!

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