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Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Sweetness in the Belly

by Camilla Gibb

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7733611,948 (3.8)1 / 64
Title:Sweetness in the Belly
Authors:Camilla Gibb
Collections:CF (Canadian Fiction), Your library
Tags:CF GIB, England, historical fiction, Islam

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Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

  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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Sweetness in the Belly: A Novel by Camilla Gibb (2006) ( )
  asawyer | Dec 31, 2014 |
Lilly, a British girl, was orphaned at age 8 while living in Morocco - she was taken in and taught Qur'an by a great spiritual teacher and later moved to Ethiopia where she informally taught Qur'an to local children and had a love affair with a young doctor deeply involved in the country's political struggle - when the political situation and the famine became untenable, she moved to England and worked on behalf of Ethiopians who had also escaped their country-

Lilly was always a foreigner wherever she lived - she never grieved the loss of her parents and was unable to fully embrace her life in London, always remaining attached to the doctor she lost contact with in Ethiopia.

I learned a lot from this novel about Ethiopia, its people and customs and the horrifically corrupt reign of Haillie Sellassie - Lilly was a sensitive and intriguing character - it was difficult to listen to this on audio as the story jumped around a lot - in book form it was much easier to follow - i was engaged, but not overly so and found that though I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot, was never breathless to continue. ( )
  njinthesun | Nov 21, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:15 -0400)

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"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)

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