August 28, 2009

The Orange Trees of Baghdad - Leilah Nadir

This is a book that I started reading more than a year ago. I heard Leilah Nadir interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on CBC and sat transfixed in my car when I got to my destination, unable to leave the radio until the interview was over. I think that I went out either that same day or the next day and bought the book. Then I started it, and for some reason didn't finish it. I can't tell you why, as I don't remember. I probably ended up picking up another book, and it got set aside until this summer.

Leilah Nadir is a Canadian writer born to an English mother and an Iraqi father. When the war in Iraq broke out in 2003, she became interested in researching her Iraqi roots, and ended up contacting relatives in Baghdad. The book jumps around a bit - it includes her father's story of growing up in Iraq and how he came to England; how her mother and father met, married, and ended up in Canada; and also the story of the present day and how her family in Iraq is coping with the American invasion.

I really enjoyed this book as it puts a personal face on everything that I have heard on the news, and there are some very vivid descriptions in the book. Quite amazing in places, as the writer has never been to Iraq. It is a compelling story too - as I mentioned before, I read about half of the book last year, and the second half this year - well, as soon as I finished the second half, I went back and re-read the first half again!

My one criticism of the book is that it does jump around a bit too much - from the past to the present to the past again - which made it a bit difficult to keep track of the characters. I found myself flipping back and forwards, reminding myself of who was who.

Tomorrow, I will be meeting Leilah Nadir at the Sleeping Giant Writers Festival!

This book was read for The Canadian Book Challenge at The Book Mine Set.

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