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Beneath the Lion's Gaze

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,161 ratings  ·  218 reviews
An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s revolution.

This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hai
...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published January 11th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Terryn
Let’s be real here – a lot of what we (Westerners) know of Ethiopia is based on those late night aid commercials soliciting support for starving children with distended bellies and flies swarming their faces. This is incredibly problematic. Maaza Mengiste’s “Beneath The Lion’s Gaze” flies in the face of that monolithic stock image of the country and gives a richly drawn description of Ethiopian life before the 1974 revolution that many people know little or nothing about.

This is the story of a f
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Mwalimu Oduol
I Had this book for a really long time but never got round to reading it. Now that i'm done im kinda wondering why it took me so long.

The book is about the Ethiopian revolution as seen though the eyes of a fictional family in the time period. The author goes to great lengths to get the reader to understand what each of the characters are going through before , during and after the revolution.i really felt like i was going through the struggle with the characters in the book and the decisions th
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
First, the cover is not doing this book any favors. I assumed it was a memoir, probably of a child soldier or something.

Even once I realized this was a novel, I didn’t have high expectations for it: I was expecting another earnest but poorly-written book published on the strength of covering awful events in a time and place most Americans know little about. As it turns out, I did like the book more than expected.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is set in 1970’s Ethiopia, a time of enormous upheaval: foll
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Marsha
"Beneath the Lion's Gaze" begins in 1974 during the last days of Emperor Haile Selassie's despotic rule of Ethiopia. Told through the fates of members of a well educated family it conveys the chaos, contradictions and violence that beset the country.

As the story starts, the people of Ethiopia are literally dying of starvation as an aged and aloof Emperor goes about business as usual. Then seemingly overnight Emperor and officials are seized, murdered or detained and a new struggle begins. The ne
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Julia
Beneath the Lion's Gaze threw me right into a country and an historic era I knew little or almost nothing about, but Maaza Mengiste introduces gives a history lesson in an unotrusive way, using the family and neighborhood she portrays for showing the influence of politics on simple people who get involved in different ways, giving voice to various ideologies from the fiery Dawit who firmly believes in change and an egalitarian system, his quiet brother who tries to stay out of the way of history ...more
Melissa
Well written book, by an author behind whom rests the success of the future of pan-African modern story telling (based on the advanced praise).... Mengiste writes a story of a man and his two sons during the Red Terror of Ethopia's flirtation with Communism in it's path/struggle to overthrow the monarchy. The father loses his wife, sick from the very beginning of the novel, and then struggles with the perceived loss of his son as he watches his second son repeatedly put himself in danger by beco ...more
Heather Bridson
Well, I really had no idea what life is like in Ethiopia. All I really knew of it before this book was the commercials of starving children from the churches that wanted you to send money to help them, and an occasional blip on the news. So, this was a bit of a culture shock for me. The story was well written ad haunting. I cried, I fell in love with the characters and the land, and the imagery stuck with me.

I still can't believe people can do that sort of thing to other people. I know that it
...more
Meredith
Every page of this novel is filled with profound sadness: Death, torture, suffering, and just a prevailing mood of despondency. It's not the sort of book that one should be engrossed in while sitting poolside at a vacation resort -- the dissonance is nearly unbearable --but I simply could not put down this story about the 1970s revolution in Ethiopia, when Emperor Haile Selassie is executed by the military (as portrayed chillingly in this novel) and a group of Communist zealots terrorizes Addis ...more
Todd Vanderwerff
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is such a fantastic and moving novel for 95 percent of its length that the little niggling things it doesn't do as well as it might end up feeling like bigger problems than they actually are. Author Maaza Mengiste is trying something hugely ambitious here, as she aims to sketch in an entire neighborhood that will stand in for a country little-represented in world literature. Few debut novels have this much ambition, which ultimately makes Mengiste's few missteps easier to ...more
Irene
This review was first written for Author Exposure:
http://www.authorexposure.com/2011/01...


Beneath the Lion’s Gaze disturbingly, vividly, and passionately reminds us that only those willing to be fearless in their quest for knowledge of our world community’s history will recognize what an indomitable spirit we though scattered, demonstrate as inhabitants of a global community. With an unwavering hand, Maaza Mengiste pens an extraordinarily gripping debut narrative during the turbulent events that
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Beth
Beneath the Lions Gaze is the story of the Ethopian Revolution in the mid 1970s, from the point of view of multiple characters. It opens with a doctor operating on another gunshot victim, while reflecting on his youngest son's involvement in the war, and his wife, dying of cancer in the same hospital. The son gets caught up in the resistance, and the doctor euthanizes a torture victim of the regime.

It took me a long time to get into this book; I picked it up and
read about 20 pages of and put do
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MomIsReading
Brilliant novel by a first time Ethiopian writer. Do not let the fact that this book is "fiction" fool you into thinking these events did not occur in Ethiopia. Being married to an Ethiopian who survived during the military (Derg) coup takeover of the Monarchy in 1974, the back story in this book is not fiction. My husband was able to finally leave Ethiopia about 7 years later and attend college in Sweden. It was almost 25 years before my husband was able to return to his homeland for a visit. T ...more
Anne Broyles
This is the second novel I've read about Ethiopa (the other being CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese) and I love them both for the different ways they portray a slice of Ethiopian history. Verghese's book focused on one family across a greater time period and in several countries. Mengiste's incredible debut novel focuses tightly on one family affected by the 1947 revolution that resulted in the emperor's death and a provisional council (the "Derg") taking over the country. Father Hailu; quie ...more
Laura
I struggled to read this book immensely. I tried to imagine Addis in those Red Terror days, Entotto, Meskel Square, Churchill Avenue, bodies scattered by the regime. The Red Terror museum now stands in the middle of Addis free of charge for all to see what Mengistu - still alive and unscathed in Zim - did to his own people. And in this museum hundreds of ID photos stare back at you from the walls, portraying the young and beautiful faces of the Ethiopians who died at the hands of one of their ow ...more
Linda
Wow. It was horrifying, graphic, riveting, and maybe even awe-inspiring. I had a hard time getting started with this book. I almost put it down and picked up another in my pile but something kept me going and by the time I got to Part 2, I was hooked.

This is the story of a family caught in the upheaval, brutality, and terror of a revolution in Ethiopia in the mid-1970s. The father, Hailu, is a doctor, the youngest son, Dawit, is a spirited revolutionary ready to take on the world, the oldest son
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Viva
The book gave me a chance to learn about a people, culture, religion, and time period that I am not familiar with. However, I wanted more from the book. I was able to relate to the characters, but felt I could've connected a bit more with. I think the book had many themes and personalities going on, making it difficult for me to fully connect. I would still recommend it for reading and would read more from Maaza Mengiste.
Zaynäb  tyty Quadri
This book was not as amazing as i thought it would be while i love her writing and her diction. The plot was MEH! She was meandering without really giving us something concrete about the Ethiopian revolution that we did not already know.

All in all i love her characters, they were so real and so brave amidst all odds.

Nnedi
I loved the characters and the setting was highly compelling. But I needed more plot. I really really needed more of a plot. You've got to have something happen, and that has to be shown as it's happening. Too many time whenever there was movement in the plot it was shown as FLASHBACK. 8-|. No.
Nancy
Set in Ethiopia during the overthrow of the Emperor in the early 70s. The book was in two parts, really. The first part took place during the time of the actual deposing of the Emperor. This part is more about the interactions of a doctor with his family; a dying wife and his two sons. The descriptions of the family interactions were so wonderful. I enjoyed the writing and it reminded me a bit of "Cry the Beloved Country", due to the narrative portions interlaced with more poetic interludes. The ...more
Kristy
The book follows a surgeon and his family through the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy and its aftermath. It is well-written, with characters who are complex enough that you understand all of their (often vastly different) perspectives and can sympathise with even those you might not expect. It is a fantastic commentary on the ways in which a regime or an idea can become more powerful than- and sometimes counter- the intentions of the people involved in it, and the ways in which both oppresso ...more
Emmy Soliman
Het eerste keer voor mij om iets over een afrikaans land te lezen, en het was een hartstikke leuk ervaring. Ik vond het heel interessant, en ik ben benieuwd om meer over het ethiopische geschidenis te lezen.

Een van de beste boeken die ik ooit heb geleesd, het vertelt precies hoe de burgers voelen nadat hun revolutie niet goed doorgegaan is.. Ik herinner me de Egyptische revolutie tijdens het lezen van dit romaan. De mensen kunnen niet meer weten wat de oplossing is, sommige zijn heel naïeve en i
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Karen Ashmore
There is a large Ethiopian population here in Denver so I wanted to learn more about the recent history of Ethiopia and what brought many of them here. "Beneath the Lion's Gaze" was a startling and sometimes horrifying fictional account of a family in Addis Ababa that prospered under Haile Selasie's reign and then endured the violent Derg regime with tragic consequences, while some family members were involved in the underground resistance movement. I visited Ethiopia two years ago and thankfull ...more
Owen
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

This is a dreadful novel, made all the more dreadful by the writer’s keen ability to evoke the deadly atmosphere of the Ethiopian Revolution of the 1970s. For if this is, as is apparently the case, a first novel, and notwithstanding the occasional writerly blemish that might remind one of such, it is a text of great strength and subtlety that belies the author’s lack of experience.

It cannot have been easy to work through material that echoes so strongly of Kafka, Zamyatin
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Michael
Mengiste has written a polite novel that does nothing to distinguish it from other books about wars.
Jeffrey
**I'm going with 3.5 of 5 here -- because, you know, these half-star differences so clearly matter**

Maaza Mengiste's tale of revolution in Ethiopa grew on me. Well, that's not quite right. I don't remember how I stumbled upon this book initially, but the first chapter is really quite gripping. It's just that the rest of the novel's first part isn't as effectively written -- Mengiste sometimes moves from one plot point to another without any clear reason or context, and characters didn't have a w
...more
Rhonda Felder
Grippingly unsettling.
Soha
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a chronicle of the lives of a middle class family and neighborhood in Addis Ababa, throughout the Ethiopian revolution in 1974.

In disturbing and passionate descriptions of brutal events, the author tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that are capable of stripping away humanity and breaking down faith.

The gruesome depictions draw a very vivid picture of how a brutal regime, assuming a moral high ground, is cowin
...more
Rowizyx
Ogni volta che leggo un libro, per quanto sia un romanzo, sulle tragedie della storia africana mi sento sempre più ignorante sulla materia. In parte mi dico che in fondo non ne posso niente, perché di Africa a scuola si parla fino al colonialismo, poi chissà, e sorprendentemente poi si salta a Mandela che come argomento piace. Il fronte africano della guerra fredda, i conflitti tribali, i regimi instaurati e lasciati a distruggere interi popoli in nome della rivoluzione...
L'autrice parla della r
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Pamela
“Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” is one of the most culturally-profound, unforgettable, deeply moving novels you've probably never heard of, but should consider reading. The mechanics are flawless; the prose is eloquent; the characters are powerfully identifiable; settings and atmosphere transport with vivid clarity. However, be cautioned – some scenes are quite graphic and disturbing. Unlike propaganda, truth doesn't masquerade as honey: “Sign this . . . we have a new and better way for you to rule . ...more
Jessica
This is a bit of a tough read at times, with a great many gruesome torture scenes, but ultimately I found it compelling. It follows a particular well-to-do family in Ethiopia during the "revolution" and terror of the 1970s, along with some of their acquaintances – all in all it amounts to a huge and unwieldy cast. Unfortunately this means that most of the characters seem rather two-dimensional, but the sheer breadth of the work distracted me from that while reading.

This novel's main strength is
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Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. A recent Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in New York Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Ninth Letter and 42opus, has been translated and published into German and Romanian for Lettre International, and can be found in the Seal Press anthology Homelands: Women's Journ ...more
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“When you are convinced that everything that happens is the will of God, what is there to do but wait until God has mercy?” 9 likes
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