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Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
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Sweetness in the Belly

by Camilla Gibb

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7593412,224 (3.8)1 / 62
Member:HartHouseLibrary
Title:Sweetness in the Belly
Authors:Camilla Gibb
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Collections:CF (Canadian Fiction), Your library
Rating:
Tags:CF GIB, England, historical fiction, Islam

Work details

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Recently added byoliviasherwood, private library, alicia11, mechristie54, paper_planes, HollyC36
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  1. 00
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both novels have a medical focus and are set in Ethiopia. The main characters in each novel were orphaned at an early age and each spent their childhoods in a religious setting.
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An introduction into a part of the world that is pretty much ignored these days. A trip through Ethiopia of the early 70s and 80s era London. Also explores Muslim practices in that region. ( )
  charlie68 | Feb 25, 2014 |
“My body is a whisper where hers is a shout” p 26.
Abandoned it by about page 120. Too much vague gauzy stuff, with spiritual I-wanna-understand squishiness. ( )
  BCbookjunky | Oct 12, 2013 |
This is the story of a child whose British parents were murdered, leaving her to be raised in a Sufi mosque in Morocco, then flee to Ethiopia and then to England. It is a slow moving and wonderful reading experience to join this unusual journey to adulthood. The writing is excellent so I felt as if I was with her and her Sufi mentors, then with her attempting to fit into life as an Ethiopian white Muslim woman. The relationships are very complicated as she must deal with being suspect in her role, as well as the jealousy of others. It is fascinating to watch the development of her faith as it follows her cognitive experiences of living with not only different religions, but more interestingly with other Muslims who have varying perspectives and interpretations of their religion. She moves from youthful black and white thinking to a more sophisticated understanding of life. When she leaves Ethiopia she must adjust again, now to life in England, where she works with a non-profit group to help other refugees. She also experiences romantic relationships that are complicated and fascinating.

Reading this book is a good way to develop understanding of common refugee experiences as well as experiences specific to this particular group. The waiting and waiting to know if your loved ones are alive, to determine if or when to move on beyond that hope and to a new life in a new country are experienced by the reader.

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote mkboylan | Sep 23, 2013 |
I enjoyed parts of the book. It was well written and it had some interesting parts to it, but in the end I found it didn't come together for me.

I felt Lilly as a character was what threw me off from the book. I didn't like her as a character and found a lot of her development forced. Her romantic relationship with Aziz, lacked in anything that I found was a meaningful relationship, because I never felt the was any connection between her and Aziz and I felt their relationship felt very forced and unbelievable. I also couldn't connect to her emotionally. There were a lot of other characteristics about Lilly I disliked as well, she was a harsh, hardened character, which worked well for the experiences and what happened in her past, but I found that, she wasn't very likeable, she was to one-sided. I did enjoy some of the supporting characters, but even then, I found much of their interactions and emotional bonds forced to help move the story along, rather than allow it to come naturally.

I think the author did a good job at creating Lilly's spiritual and life journey while she was in Ethiopia. The author seemed to have done her research well, in this aspect of the book. Both the spiritual side and historical aspects of the book worked out well. I enjoyed the story more in the parts in England than Ethiopia, as I felt some of the spiritual side of things were becoming repetitive, but I still think the author did a great job there. The author took care at bring the cultural and spiritual side of things to life for the readers, and it was woven into the characters development fairly well.

Overall, not a bad read, but not exactly a great read for me.

Also found on my book review blog ( )
  bookwormjules | Sep 21, 2013 |
3rd read: beginning 03 september 13, for GR group read @ CBC Books - 5* rating (YAY!!)

man, this is a great book and i am so thrilled it held up during this third read for me. gibb is a fantastic storyteller and through her prose i could truly see, hear, smell and touch the places she created in this book - lilly's life in harare, her life in london were both so vivid.

this subject - ethiopia in the 70s, the government and it's abuses and deaths caused, the truth behind the famines - is something not truly well understood. through this novel. gibb brings us into a world we may not otherwise have been able to know or experience.

2nd read: for in-person book group, 2007 - 5* rating

1st read: @ time of publication, 2005 - 5* rating ( )
  DawsonOakes | Sep 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
In her third novel, Camilla Gibb takes readers to the often overlooked country of Ethiopia. Gibb intertwines a story of exile in Thatcher’s London with a past pious existence in Haile Selassie’s politically unstable Ethiopia to create a dynamic tapestry of one woman’s life.

Gibb challenges the reader by presenting a protagonist who is difficult to identify with, and not always likeable. Despite her annoying self-righteousness, Lilly’s struggle with her human flaws authenticates her character. Amina balances Lilly’s bitter rigidity, as she flirtatiously flounces around in her tartan skirt. Lilly embodies the many contradictions of love, religion, science, and culture, as she tries to embrace an openness that allows these elements to coexist.

The novel offers many insights on religion, race, and exile. Through the white figure of Lilly, Gibb deculturalizes Islam and reveals the vibrant possibilities it affords – a fact often forgotten in today’s political landscape. From the unpacked boxes in the homes of Ethiopian refugees to Lilly’s stubborn hold on the past, readers see that exile is often based on the myth of return. And racism is ubiquitous, even within the non-colonized walls of Harar.

Gibb balances this heaviness with lush imagery that transports the reader to Lilly’s world. The “glittering … bright head scarves and beaded shawls” in the city of Harar dazzle the reader, the “staggered chorus of muezzins” is a loud awakening, and the smell of incense and sweat in Lilly’s secret meetings with Aziz is hypnotic. Gibb also presents social commentary through humour. However, these few instances of clever wit leave the reader wanting more.

All of these details of a most unusual place and story weave a human tapestry of love, loss, and survival. This “outsider’s struggle to assert a place … and the euphoric, if fleeting, sense of peace in finding one” leaves the reader with a sweetness that comes from something fresh and new.

added by VivienneR | editQuill & Quire, Prasanthi Vasanthakumar (Jan 18, 2014)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143038729, Paperback)

Like Brick Lane and The Kite Runner, Camilla Gibb’s widely praised new novel is a poignant and intensely atmospheric look beyond the stereotypes of Islam. After her hippie British parents are murdered, Lilly is raised at a Sufi shrine in Morocco. As a young woman she goes on pilgrimage to Harar, Ethiopia, where she teaches Qur’an to children and falls in love with an idealistic doctor. But even swathed in a traditional headscarf, Lilly can’t escape being marked as a foreigner. Forced to flee Ethiopia for England, she must once again confront the riddle of who she is and where she belongs.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:17 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"When Lilly is eight years old, her pot-smoking hippie British parents leave her at a Sufi shrine in Morocco and inform her they will be back to collect her in three days. Three weeks later, she learns they've been murdered. Lilly fills that haunted hollow in her life with the intense study of the Qur'an under the watchful eye of the saint's disciple she was entrusted to. Years later, her journey from Morocco to Harar, Ethiopia, is half pilgrimage, half flight. In Harar, even her traditional Muslim head scarves cannot hide her white skin in her strange new surroundings; the word farenji - foreigner - is hissed at her at every turn. She eventually builds a life for herself teaching children the Qur'an, and she finds herself falling in love with an idealistic young doctor. But the two are wrenched apart when Lilly is again forced to flee, this time to London. Despite her British roots, Lilly discovers she is as much of an outsider in London as she was in Harar."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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