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Beneath the Lion's Gaze

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,433 Ratings  ·  248 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
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published January 11th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 04, 2013 Terryn rated it it was amazing
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
This book has a tone and the best word I have for it is sombre. I felt Mengiste's Ethiopia to be grand, dignified, ancient, steeped in its rich mythopoesis. The graceful prose seems to move glacially from idea to idea, image to image, never becoming fevered or fragmenting as its subjects do. The segments from the viewpoint of Haile Selassie seem entirely appropriate in this mood. What I'm saying might sound like distance, the vertical perspective of a strategy game, but the texture here is also ...more
Mwalimu Oduol
Dec 08, 2013 Mwalimu Oduol rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 29, 2011 Marsha rated it really liked it
"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
Jul 13, 2015 Sheryl rated it really liked it
I've had this book for years and finally got around to reading it, though, I admit, it took me awhile to feel connected to the story and the characters. However, I'm so glad I stuck with it. The setting is Ethiopia in the 1970s during the beginning of the Red Terror period of history there, in which a military government promising change and equality essentially terrorizes the civilian population and massacres any dissenters.
This story focuses mainly on a father and his two sons, which was intr
Apr 15, 2011 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
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
Jack Becker
I absolutely loved Part One of this book. I loved it so much that I defended it against the vehement attacks my classmates threw against it, citing the several typos and repetitive, odd word-choices (such as "ululations") as proof that it wasn't worthy enough to take time away from our Capstone, the most important project of our high-school careers. For the first week, I completely disagreed with them. All of the characters were sharp and effective in their roles, and every chapter was an entert ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Nnedi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
“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
Jul 03, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2013 Heather Bridson rated it liked it
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
Aug 01, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it
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
Sep 12, 2010 Todd Vanderwerff rated it really liked it
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
Apr 20, 2015 Irene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gave-away
This review was first written for Author Exposure:

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
Jul 10, 2010 Beth rated it liked it
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
Feb 10, 2010 MomIsReading rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 07, 2011 Anne Broyles rated it it was amazing
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
May 24, 2015 L.A. rated it really liked it
I love it when fiction drives me back to history to learn more. Case in point: I knew next to nothing about the Ethiopian revolution that began in 1974 when I picked up this novel. Now I'm keen to read up on it, a task made easier by Mengiste helpfully including a short bibliography at the back of the book.

Hailu is a doctor in Addis Ababa. When emperor Haile Selassie is deposed by the military, which has espoused Communist ideals, he and his family are drawn into the revolution that unfolds. Far
Nov 01, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Apr 09, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
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
A beautiful and painful book, following the end of the Ethiopian empire in 1974 and all the violence that came after. A story of a family and its neighbors, as the turmoil engulfs them, hurts and scars them, leaving destruction and some courage behind.
A must read, told beautifully. A fictional but enlightening tale about the Red Terror that engulfed Ethiopia once. (And with some hints to understand the country today...)
Apr 01, 2013 Viva rated it liked it
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.
Zaynab tyty Quadri
May 04, 2015 Zaynab tyty Quadri rated it liked it
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.

Jan 26, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-ideas
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
Apr 04, 2014 Kristy rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2015 Emmy Soliman rated it it was amazing
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
Karen Ashmore
Jan 05, 2015 Karen Ashmore rated it really liked it
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
Jan 17, 2014 Owen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Set during the overthrow of Haile Salassie and the wages of fear wrought by the junta that directly followed his reign, this book examines family, grief, scarcity, and their intersections during a time of political turmoil. The revolution that the youngest son fought for is not a revolution at all. His brother and father dismiss his work towards another revolution as frivolous while acknowledging that the current regime is as deeply corrupt as that of the emperor, perhaps even moreso.

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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
More about Maaza Mengiste...

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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?” 12 likes
“We must not be anything other than what we are.” 8 likes
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