Empires of Sand is an exciting, plot driven adventure story based on true events. It starts with a bang - a boar hunt in the Bois de Boulogne in ParisEmpires of Sand is an exciting, plot driven adventure story based on true events. It starts with a bang - a boar hunt in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Two cousins, Moussa and Paul, are playing in the very same forest,of course in close proximity to the furious, wounded boar. What will happen?! The adventure continues chronicling the de Vries family through Bismarck's siege of Paris, 1870-71, with balloon flights and subterranean escape routes under the streets of Paris. The hunger, the rats, and two boys up to pranks. The research is solid and the escapades are fun and exciting.
The story doesn't stop there. Next thing you know you are off to the deserts of Sahara. And there we have the Tuareg people. Again the author has built his story on research about these proud people. The women are unveiled and independent, but the men are hidden behind indigo colored veils. All one sees is their eyes through small slits. Here the book continues to follows Moussa and Paul within the framework of real events. France wanted to build a railroad that would cross the Algerian Sahara south to Timbuktu in the French Sudan, what is today Mali. Colonel Paul Flatters led an exploratory expedition for France in 1880-81. The true events of this massacre are related through this story.
You are delivered one adventure after another. You get love and hatred and the evils of the Church and balloon rides and...... put your self in a deep irrigation tunnel, naked, digging as a slave. This is an adventure story that teaches about real historical events.
You can tell the author is having fun. There is humor. You can tell the author is poking at the church.....wait till you meet the Bishop and oh, there is a demonic nun! The author clearly has a message about hatred, about love and about being an outsider, a person who doesn't fit in.
Impressive narration by George Guidall.The audiobook had both an author's note and a final interview with the author. Perfect conclusion to a fun book. The author says that the most successful parts of any book will be those parts where the author has had fun. Authors must write for themselves. It is difficult; you must persevere. You must build upon solid research. I think this author has had fun and there is solid research. It shows....more
Nope, I didn't like this at all. OK, just about everybody agrees the ending is bad, me included, but that is not at all why I so dislike the book. ForNope, I didn't like this at all. OK, just about everybody agrees the ending is bad, me included, but that is not at all why I so dislike the book. For me endings are not that terribly important. It is the time spent with the book that is important to me. Do they get me thinking? Am I drawn onto the lives of the characters? Do I occasionally smile or laugh outright or cry? I never laughed with this book. Not once. Neither did I cry. I was made miserable by the depravity so frequently seen in the village. I was annoyed by the rector(s religious thinking that made him judgemental and all-knowing. He was as far from humble as you can get.
The following sort of has some spoilers so beware!
I have difficulty accepting the rector's sexual behavior towards his wife and her closest friend Anna. The rector's religious explanation for his sexual abstinence toward his wife, whom I believe he did deeply love, an explanation revolving around repentance and atonement, is beyond my understanding!I think it was pure sophistry even in the 1600s. The explanation simply didn't ring true. Furthermore if this is what he truly thought, well then the rector sure had high opinion of himself and what he thought he had the right to teach others.
I do respect and admire the rector's noble efforts to save numerous lives in guiding the village to close itself off from its neighbors, albeit sacrificing many villagers to save others outside the village. However this tremendous noble act of courage, in the hands of this author completely squashed out the normal, small every-day occurrences of kindness and humor that usually lighten and ease the burden of life in difficult times. There was just too much misery without any joy or humor, which must have occasionally occurred.
I agree that the author seamlessly tied in her historical studies - but that doesn't make it a good book.
I guess I am the odd ball out in not liking this book!...more
Last night I finished this book. I simply had to digest it a bit before summarizing my views. I have chosen three stars, but pay attentionNO SPOILERS!
Last night I finished this book. I simply had to digest it a bit before summarizing my views. I have chosen three stars, but pay attention when I say this is definitely a book to read! It does have faults. These weighed in when I reduced the four to three stars. The book very well describes the pandemonium of Algerian life during the 1900s from the pov of Arabs. This is how life was for those down and under. In this is thrown a Swiss who loves an Arab and she is too drowned in the horrors perpetuated by the French, WW2 and the Islamic jihad terrorists at the end of the century. This is how life was - so it is not a comfortable read by any means! The reader is THERE, living those, but don't look for tons of historical facts. They facts are sparse. What you get is how life was then for those there, living in Algeirs. Another reason why I loved the book was its portrayal of friendship. Utterly magnificent. One such relationship is between two wives married to an Arab! Really, really this was very well done. Another is between an elderly woman and a young boy, who were not family, but who chose each other to be family. Love between a man and a woman is also beautifully drawn. (Does love lead to disaster? - Another thing to ponder while reading this book.) In addition some of the lines were just so funny or sad or sardonic that I wanted to frame them and put them up on the wall.
So why only three stars? Parts made me so uncomfortable due to the brutality and filthy language. The book had to be this way, but still I was uncomfortable. The time-line is jumbled. Sometimes I had to go back and reread sections to figure out how to get the story straight.....to understand the order of events. Maybe that is just my feeble brain. OK, and the end was too neatly tied up. I thought the end was bad, but I cannot say anything b/c that would be a spoiler. These three negative characteristics prevented me from giving the book 4 stars. I want a 4 star book to be VERY, VERY GOOD. Still, most of the time I WAS thoroughly absorbed in the book. A bad ending on a good book isn't that important. A confusing book doesn't mean a bad book. Sometimes really disgusting events must be given to correctly depict what was going on in real life. See, I can argue with myself on and on..... Since I award the stars on my reviews, seen as a clump, the tree minusues bring down the total of stars awarded - BUT READ THE BOOK (if you have a strong stomach). I am always like this - I never really can make up my mind..... There are so many ways of looking at a question.
Through page 165: Remember the title? The LOVERS of Algeria - yes it is a love story too. Why do I like it? Well because the people are emotional and real and tempermental, and they do crazy things just like real people really do. How can people be calm and practical and sane when the world they live in is in such a horrible mess?
Through page 132: Now I ssimply cannot put the book down. I enjoy it so very, very much. It is perhaps confusing in the beginning, but if you are a little patient all becomes clear. There are even dates mentioned. Life in Algeria under the French colonial forces and afterwards during the civil war are wrenchingly depicted. But the story is far from being horrible - there are relationships that are so wonderful that the rest seems just like like life, something you have to get through. Some of the lines are stunning:
"Life isn't the best thing ever invented, little brother, as you'll soon find out...." (page 129)
"His mother, to prevent herself from crying, had resorted to shouting at him...." (page 129)
And here is a longer passage starting on page 105:
"she wonders, stupidly, how does one set about dying?"
She senses the full moon watching her, hateful with its prying glare. She retches from breathlessness. A thread of saliva runs down her chin, a drop of sweat down her forehead. The prespiration quickly freezes. She is barefoot. Suddenly she is aware that her feet are huring abominably and, to her surprise, although determined to die, she finds herself wishing she could die with her feet in a pair of warm slippers...."
"She is delirious, but she can't fight it. She has lost control of her mind. Little by little, the dam holding back her memories is giving way. She is immersed in the past, and its warmth is even more lethal than the cold. Now she understands what is meant by 'to die': it is the sharp wrench of losing all those little things that one has lived through."
And there is such friendship . It is worth reading this book just to see this friendship grow between two women. You must read the book to see whom I am speaking of.
Through page 87: Please read comment 2 below. To give you a taste of the writing style here follows a quote. This quote from page 87 also exemplifies what I said in comment two.
"Don't cry son."
"I'm not crying. I'm just sniffing. Jallal protests between sobs. "you can see that I am not crying....."
And he began to shed hot tears. Anna, heartbroken, takes the boy in her arms and, quite unselfconsciously, dissolves into tears herself. Hugging one another, each strives to comfort the other. Jalla hiccups: "But Grandma, crying won't help!," and Anna, her tears flowing more copiously than ever, responds : "I'm not crying....what gives you that idea? You're the one who's crying.... I'm just blowing my nose!"
At last, the little guide's two black eyes focus on the Swiss woman's kohl-streaked face.
"Shit, what a sight! Your face ....it's all black!"
"And what about yours, my little pirate, do you think you look any better?"
Suddenly, they burst out laughing. Jallal puts a hand to his nose: "Ow, ow! That arsehole, that fucker of his mother's lover! Ow, ow, just wait till I catch him."
Anna, startled, says wickedly: "I shouldn't say such things at my age, but ... arsehole, fucker of....how did you put it?"
"...his mother's lover..."
"That's it....dam him, he has certainly taken us for a ride! What do we do now?"
There is a real friendship growing. There is alot of filthy language, but most often most it is just talk. So far at least. ...more
This is an excellent book, but a book emotionally difficult to read. A book filled with detailed information. A challenging book.
It is thorough and wThis is an excellent book, but a book emotionally difficult to read. A book filled with detailed information. A challenging book.
It is thorough and well researched.
It is balanced. All warring combatants are fairly presented.
Details of the war atrocities, and they are numerable, are not excessive. This is what happened, and if you are going to read about this terrible war you need to be given all the facts, all the atrocities committed. Only then do you fully understand. Atrocities of war are committed by all involved. I love France, but I am not a French citizen. If you love a place you must also with clear eyes seek out all facets of its history - the good and the bad. What I learned shook me and made the book very difficult to read. When I read The Rape of Nanking, about the atrocities committed by the Japanese in 1937-1938, I found it a very important book and a book I wanted to support because the Japanese still today evade the truth. I was mad and my anger made it easy to support that book. But with Alistair Horne's book I was shaken because I had to open my eyes to the truth about a country I love. I still love France but all aspects of their historical past must be acknowledged too. The atrocities committed hit close to home. We Europeans are no cleaner, no more morally upright, equally culpable, and equally savage as the Japanese and the Arabs and other peoples. The atrocities committed during this war hit home because they are committed by people of a European culture, albeit not only them. The atrocities related in this book had to be detailed.
The author is English. I am glad he was neither French nor Arab. He has gathered all the facts, the incriminating details, and presented them in a fair, balanced and nuanced manner.
To understand what happened you have to understand the history that lead up to the Algerian War – a war of independence, a civil war and a war of terrorism. A war that lasted eight long years (1954-1962). The atrocities started before 1954 and continued beyond 1962. The book starts not in 1954, but in the 1830s when the French settled in Algeria. Algeria was a province of France. It was not a colony as Morocco and Tunisia were. It was as French as Brittany as Provence as Burgundy as Normandy. These people felt themselves to be as French as a Parisian! You have to understand this to understand why the French in Algeria could not give up what they saw as home. France’s war in Indochina, France’s occupation by the Germans in WW2, French involvement in the Suez conflict, the political events in France during the war years , are all covered to the extent to which they related to the Algerian War, as well as the burgeoning strength of the third world nations. Comparisons are made with the conflicts in Ireland and South Africa as well as independence and political development in Morocco and Tunisia. What has happened in Algeria and France immediately after the war is thoroughly covered, both specific individuals and political and economic developments. The book concludes in the 1990s.
The narrator of the audiobook is James Adams, a British narrator who speaks clearly and with a steady, good speed. The French lines are clearly pronounced, albeit with a British accent. There are quite a few lines that are not translated, but they are not long sections. Comprehension of French is a plus. In that the book is so detailed, that so many Arab names are cited and that my own knowledge was so cursory when I began the book, I did find listening rather than reading challenging, but the narration is excellent.
Thorough, well researched, balanced and emotionally engaging. This book in seven words. Not an easy read, but an important one. ...more