DubaiReader's Reviews > Anatomy of a Disappearance

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
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's review
Nov 16, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, ew-pm-bk-grp, library
Read in November, 2011

Hidden depths.

I read this for a recent book group. I enjoyed it, taking it purely at face value. I then discussed it within our group, several of whom were of Arab origin, and suddenly I discovered whole new levels of the story that made sense to my Arab friends but which had completely passed me by. Yet I didn't detect the more floral language of an Arab writer in the narrative, it didn't have the feel, to me, of a book by an Arab writer.

The story is told by Nuri, just twelve when it begins with his encounter with the enigmatic Mona on a hotel beach in Egypt. Although Nuri has a teenage crush on Mona, it is his father whom she eventually marries.
Thus begins a complicated relationship between the three of them, which is dramatically affected by the disappearance of Nuri's father whilst holidaying in Switzerland.

Much of this story is semi-autobiographical; Mr Matar's own father was abducted from the family's Cairo home by Egypt's Mukhabarat, handed over to the Libyan government and imprisoned in Abu Salim prison. He has not been heard from since a letter smuggled out in 1995. Hisham Matar must be well aware of the angst this causes a teenage boy, the terrible lack of closure caused by the unknown.

The characterisations are excellent, particularly that of Nuri. The pace of the novel reflects the feelings of a slightly introverted young boy as he is forced to come to terms with the loss of his father.
Also very topical with the events that have unfolded recently in Libya.

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