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Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
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Crescent (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Diana Abu-Jaber

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4911720,840 (3.81)16
Member:Veej53
Title:Crescent
Authors:Diana Abu-Jaber
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2004), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, 25-book List B, Read 2012
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Fiction - Literary

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Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber (2003)

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» See also 16 mentions

English (17)  Swedish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting... a romance novel.

It's an exaggeration to call it that. However, there was too much love, too much sex, too many dreams in this novel for my personal liking.

That said - the language was beautiful.

Moreover, it was not a good time for me to be reading a (relatively) happy love story.

I would still definitely recommend this book. I love Diana Abu-Jaber's writing, and still plan to read Birds of Paradise. I preferred Arabian Jazz, though. ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
I didn't think I was going to like this one, given that I just read and disliked another novel about Muslims living in an Anglo land. I'm happy to report that I was wrong.

The novel tells the story of Sirine, who lives with her cranky-but-lovable uncle in "Teherangeles" and who works as a chef in a Lebanese-Middle Eastern restaurant. She meets and falls in love with a Han, a professor who is a wanted man in Iraq (because of his former association with Americans there before Saddam's revolution). Han's family is still there, but for him to return to his country might prove fatal. The evolution of the couple's story is interspersed with the uncle's fantastical tale of a young Arab man who might or might not have grown up to be Omar Sharif (!) and the mother who searches for him with the help of a dog, an old mermaid, a jinn, and assorted other characters.

The book's structure reminds me of the film version of The Princess Bride--the grandfather's storytelling alternating with the events concerning Buttercup and Westley. Note, though, that the fable told in Crescent has no moral--the uncle says so specifically. :-)

I really liked the writing. The tastes, smells, sounds, touches all come through loud and clear, but somehow they're all rolled up in a gauzy veil. I can completely believe there is a Mideast enclave just like this in Los Angeles. Very well done. Minor nitpicks: someone should correct the copy on the book jacket--it contradicts the text in a few places. There are also a few typos in the text itself, but not enough to irritate.

Some of the characters are realized more fully than others, but I didn't mind so much. Sirine seems realistic, and it was refreshing to have an older female protagonist who wasn't desperate to get married or have kids. The only drawback to her character was that she seemed a bit passive for most of the story. This may be a cultural difference, though.

I wish we had read this for the book club instead of the other novel. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
Read this before we moved, and somehow never got to writing my review. I like this author's works, and I like the way she weaves food, flavors, sensations into her works. This was no disappointment in that regard, in fact, there are a few recipes in the back worth investigating.

The story was gentle, filled with longing, love, heartache, and wonderful stories. There were some holes, but for the most part, there is a stark reality that Abu-Jaber has in her books, infused with honey, and wrapped in a delicious flaky crust, multi-layered, multi-flavored, interesting with each bite.

But what was the name of Sirene's uncle? I don't think it appears at all in the book; he's just "Sirene's uncle." ( )
  bookczuk | Apr 29, 2014 |
Wow. Beautiful, remarkable novel. Read it. (and Vanity Fair, it's not a "deliciously romantic romp"). (I mean, a romp? really?)
( )
  jarvenpa | Mar 31, 2013 |
beautiful love story, descriptions evolk smells
  asyouth | Sep 7, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393325547, Paperback)

It's a positive relief to read a novel that treats Iraqis as real people. Diana Abu-Jaber's second novel, Crescent, is set in Los Angeles and peopled by immigrants and Iraqi-Americans. Thirty-nine-year-old, half-Arab Sirine is a chef in a Lebanese restaurant. Her uncle works at the university with Han, an Iraqi-born academic who begins frequenting Sirine's restaurant, drawn by her beauty and her exquisite cooking. Part of the book's charm is in its determination to impart the sheer glamour of Arabia, here personified in Han's face: "Sirine watches Han and for a moment it seems that she can actually see the ancient traces in Han's face, the quality of his gaze that seems to originate from a thousand-thousand years of watching the horizon--a forlorn, beautiful gazing, rich and more seductive than anything she has ever seen." Too, the book addresses head-on the one-dimensional view Americans possess of Iraq. I used to read about Baghdad in Arabian Nights," says one American character. "It was all about magic and adventurers. I thought that's what it was like there. And when I got older Baghdad turned into the stuff about war and bombs--the place on the TV set. I never thought about there being any kind of normal life there." As she falls more deeply in love with Han, Sirine discovers that part of being Iraqi now means learning to live with not knowing: not knowing where people have disappeared to, not knowing if your family is alive or dead. In the book's thrilling, romantic denouement, these lessons come perilously close to Sirine's Los Angeles home. Crescent brings alive a vibrant community of exiled academics, immigrants on the make, and optimistic souls looking for love. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Never married, living with an Iraqi-immigrant uncle and devoted dog, and working as a chef in a Lebanese restaurant, thirty-nine-year-old Sirine finds her life turned upside down by a handsome Arabic literature professor.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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