The book opens in Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus. French journalist Marc Taragon is at the apex of his career, and Nicosia is his home base for covering the Middle East. A tenacious idealist, Taragon has spent the last thirty years attempting to bring to readers the truths about the wars and political intrigues of the region. He is unsparing in his criticism of extremists and has earned many enemies. Taragon agrees to be interviewed by a young Canadian journalist, Marie Boivin, not knowing that Marie has a hidden agenda: to discover through Taragon the truth about her childhood.
Before Marie finds the answers she seeks, she is enmeshed in Taragon’s plan to broker peace negotiations between Jonathan Bronstein, a left-wing Israeli politician, and Abdullah Akkawi, a dissident Palestinian leader. The action moves quickly through Europe and the Middle East as Taragon and his associates try to stay one step ahead of deadly opponents of their initiative.
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Shaw for a copy of his book! He and his publicist very generously sent me a copy in exchange for a honest review, and I’m very flattered that they would request my opinion. Thank you for your confidence, and I hope to work together with you in the future!
This book was really interesting from a couple of perspectives. First of all, it is heavily involved in the conflicts of the Middle East. As someone who has a small amount of knowledge from the Israel-Palestine conflict but not much else, this book was in many ways a lot of information thrown at the reader at once. However, I don’t think that it was too much per say. Even if you are someone who has no knowledge of what is happening in the Middle East, this is still a very engaging book and honestly a good way to start learning about the complexities and how very nuanced the situation is.
Additionally, I found that a lot of the narratives were very compelling. Hoda and Selima in particular, but most of the women in general, were all very strong and had great story lines, and it was fun trying to figure out how they were all connected. By using the device of multiple story lines (one in the present of 2007 and one in the past spanning from the 60’s/70’s/80’s) Shaw was able to show how all the characters in the story were interconnected. It’s funny because the world is actually such a small place, and Shaw’s work really showed that fun fact.
One thing that kind of nagged at me throughout the novel was a fear that the story might have veered too close to ‘white saviour complex’ territory. While the novel did show a lot of diversity in it’s characters and the drivers of the plot, Taragon is French with Spanish refugee parents. Putting the brunt of the plot on his shoulders to me felt a little like saying “this french-man is going to save the Middle East” and that’s a dangerous narrative to entertain, damaging and insulting to many. In the end, I couldn’t decide whether or not this book strays into the territory with Taragon, and while I acknowledge that I am a white person and this isn’t exactly something that I have authority on, I would say that it doesn’t. Abdullah was a major force in the novel, from what we learn Marie Boivin is not white (although her description is something which escapes me), and there are many diverse characters who the story depends on.
Overall, I did enjoy the novel. Shaw draws on his experience well and you can tell that his knowledge of the Middle East has served him well in this story. Even though it is not something that I would usually pick up in the bookstore, Shaw has definitely caught my attention and I will 100% be looking at this type of novel more in the future!
Be sure to pick up Quill of the Dove when it comes out, April 1st 2019!!
That’s all for now ducks, see ya later!