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Harmattan by Gavin Weston
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Harmattan (2013)

by Gavin Weston

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*I no longer believe my father", February 29, 2016

This review is from: Harmattan (Kindle Edition)
This Niger-based novel opens with Haoua, an abused 12-year-old third wife looking back on her earlier life.
And as the narrative begins, five years earlier, it would seem that Haoua's prospects are good as a sponsored child through a charity programme. Letters between her and her Irish 'family' form part of the novel - yet these cheerful little epistles show their writers have little grasp of the recipient's life. And Haoua's hopes for an education and a career are not to be so easily attained...

I enjoyed this novel but felt that the text sometimes felt as if the author was determined to incorporate every aspect of Niger for the reader's edification - fauna, funerals, AIDS, a look at the capital, the desert, the military, the political situation, weddings, funerals... There was also a road-trip that I think would have benefitted from being cut. And the lengthy letter that Haoua writes to an American volunteer worker at the end just didn't feel like the outpourings of a traumatized teen but rather a report that the author himself might have submitted to Amnesty International.

And yet the author manages to create touching moments too: when her long-absent soldier brother comes to spend a few days with his family - "For a moment I observed them both as if they were strangers, or actors in a movie; these two people whom I loved more than life itself, reflecting each other's smiles in that way that only a mother and her child can. It was a moment I wish I could have captured somehow - frozen it in time forever: not as a photograph, but as a tiny physical fragment". ( )
  starbox | Feb 29, 2016 |
This book is an eye opening look at the poverty of Niger. It also gives us a not so pretty picture of the life of a young woman and her struggles. Haoua wanted an education and had a sponsor, but due to traditions and family expectations is married off to a much, much older man at age twelve. While her father needs the support of the Vision Corps International, their ideas and goals cause conflict with the old ways and traditions. Life has not been kind to Haoua. There is a glossary of words in the front of the book, however I felt that it was frustrating some words were not listed. I felt this book was well written. This book makes you think about how fortunate we are in this country!! I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  Pattymclpn | Mar 5, 2014 |
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I am quite certain that Irish writer Gavin Weston has never been an 11-year-old Nigerian girl. Yet in his writing of Harmattan, he takes us into her head like a skilled surgeon with a 15 blade.
 
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For Ramatou Hassane
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The floor feels cool against my hands.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haoua is a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited, independent and intelligent, she has benefited from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother and enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends.

Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mother's worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife.

Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors.

But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon: as civil strife mounts in Niger, she begins to fear for Abdelkrim's safety; Her mother's illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognised, and her father's plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined.

Approaching her twelfth birthday, Haoua feels alone and vulnerable for the very first time in her life.
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As civil strife mounts in Niger, young Haoua begins to fear for her soldier brother's safety; her mother's illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognised; and her father's plans to take a second wife are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined.… (more)

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