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I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters (2001)

by Rabih Alameddine

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1847127,289 (3.79)12
Named by her grandfather after 'the Divine' Sarah Bernhardt, Sarah Nour El-Din grows up in Beirut against the tense background of civil war. But the young Sarah finds pleasure in the everyday - her first cigarette, first kiss, seeking revenge on her tight-lipped stepmother. Then, with adulthood, comes an awareness of the fragility of life. After two failed marriages, the loss of her son, the death of one sister and the imprisonment of another, Sarah begins to tell her story. But this story is not so easy to tell¿ A novel written entirely in first chapters, I, THE DIVINE is an honest and touching story of one woman's struggle to come to terms with her past.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was very interesting.....

Sarah is living in the u.s. after coming here to study from Lebanon... Beirut was a dangerous & unhappy place to live.

Her father Lebanese, her mother American, divorced when Sarah was two... Her father then married a much younger woman, a Lebanese peasant, who made life difficult for Sarah & her two sisters.

Sarah's story is told in First Chapters (how clever), going back and forth in time. Two of the chapters were written in French, so I didn't bother with those.

I'm amazed that a man was able to write the story of a woman w/ such clarity & accuracy.... ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jul 25, 2019 |
This is a bit of a break from normality for me, but I enjoyed it a lot. Really interesting author. ( )
  lydiasbooks | Jan 17, 2018 |
sincerity flowing from half-formed artifice, chinks and cracks and gaping holes. sarah is a woman most herself when trying to be someone else. and so, by extension, is alameddine. he is his characters, whatever guise they take, and their stories are his stories.

and this is the book that stays with me, however many times re-read—because here he plays it straight.
  shmibs | Aug 24, 2017 |
Deze roman begint steeds opnieuw. De Libanese Sarah probeert in het steeds terugkerende eerste hoofdstuk greep op haar leven te krijgen. Ze is van een druzische familie en door haar grootvader vernoemd naar de actrice Sarah Bernardt. Ze leeft in Amerika, maar keert regelmatig terug naar haar familie in Beiroet. Sarah is sinds haar jeugd, als eerste meisje op een jongensschool, altijd buitenstaander gebleven. Gaandeweg onthullen zich de familie-intriges uit het verleden. Ook grootvader valt van zijn voetstuk. Uiteindelijk realiseert Sarah zich dat ze een onlosmakelijk deel van deze bizarre familie is. Alamaddine heeft een goed geconstrueerde, gevoelige roman geschreven. Een aanwinst voor de Libanese literatuur die altijd van hoogstaand niveau is geweest. Mooi omslag in steenrood met voorovergebogen vrouwengelaat; kleine druk. (bron: www.bibliotheekboxtel.nl - Drs. L.K. de Voogd) ( )
  Jannekemulder | May 26, 2010 |
This book consists entirely of first chapters of a memoir that the narrator, Sarah Nour el-Din, is trying to write - but where should she begin? and how should she seek to write the story of her life? The longest chapter is around a dozen pages - some are only a paragraph or two. Some are fictionalised, a couple are in French, a few start with her parents or with other members of her family. But gradually a picture of her life builds up.

I love the format of this book. I like the idea, as a general principle, and it's wonderful to have chosen it for a book about the difficulty of building your own identity when you are caught between two cultures (Sarah's mother is American, and as an adult, she lives in the US), and about creating yourself as an individual within a strong family.

Unfortunately, for me there was too much of a focus on Sarah in the present, rather neurotically mourning her abandonment by her latest lover two years before - which takes up time which could have been better spent on her family, her childhood, and on the interesting questions of identity that the book raises. ( )
  wandering_star | Apr 14, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Named by her grandfather after 'the Divine' Sarah Bernhardt, Sarah Nour El-Din grows up in Beirut against the tense background of civil war. But the young Sarah finds pleasure in the everyday - her first cigarette, first kiss, seeking revenge on her tight-lipped stepmother. Then, with adulthood, comes an awareness of the fragility of life. After two failed marriages, the loss of her son, the death of one sister and the imprisonment of another, Sarah begins to tell her story. But this story is not so easy to tell¿ A novel written entirely in first chapters, I, THE DIVINE is an honest and touching story of one woman's struggle to come to terms with her past.

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