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A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,692 ratings  ·  391 reviews
A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide.
All manner of Kigali residents pass their time by the pool of the Mille-Collines hotel: aid workers, Rwandan bourgeoisie, expatriates, UN peacekeepers, prostitutes. Keeping a watchful eye is Bernard Valcourt, a jaded foreign journalist, but his closest at
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 12th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Surrounding a pool in an upscale hotel in Rwanda, an eclectic group sits consisting of a journalist, upper class Rwandans, expats and prostitutes. They are removed from what is happening in the city which is rape, violence and murder.

It's 1994 and civil war has began between the Hutu and the Tutsi population. Massacres, brutality and AIDS is rampant. A war rages and whereby much of the world ignores and thereby in its passivity, condones. A country divided by ethnicity and ignorance breeds a mil
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We can all turn into killers, Valcourt had often maintained, even the most peaceful and generous of us. All it takes is a certain circumstance, something that clicks, a failing, a patient conditioning, rage, disappointment. The prehistoric predator and the primitive warrior are still alive beneath the successive varnishing that civilization has applied to mankind. All the Good and Evil of humanity is in our genes. Either one can emerge at any moment, as abruptly as a tornado can appear and destr ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (John F Kennedy)

The pool in the title is at a hotel in Kigali, Rwanda,where Western ex-pats,aid workers,diplomats and UN soldiers congregate to get drunk and fornicate with hookers and is set at the time of one of the human races darkest moments. The story is told in a novel/documentary way and centres around Bernhard Valcourt, a somewhat jaded Canadian film journalist who lives in the hotel supposedly to make a film
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub, fiction
The churches became Rwanda's gas chambers.

This is one of the most upsetting and shocking books I've ever read. Because the author share his experiences in the form of a story you get to know all the people, which had an even bigger impact on me than reading the non-fictional account in We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, which sometimes felt almost overwhelming in its scope. He also writes the most horrific scenes without any sentiment or
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, fiction
It might be a good idea to start with a bit of backstory here, since we should all have heard of the Rwandan genocide but that doesn't mean we really understand it. What follows is a hugely simplified history lesson (complete with my personal bias) which you are free to skip over.

Rwanda is a tiny fertile inland country surrounded by four larger ones, with a long, relatively peaceful history. First settled by African pygmies called Twa, they were later joined by the farming Hutus. Some time la
Precious Williams
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it
in some ways this is a 5-star book because it forces down our throats the atrocities so many of our fellow human beings suffered in the Rwandan genocide.

However, I was concerned about the way the African male characters in the book were portrayed. They were almost comically sex obsessed. One man, who is dying of Aids, gets a blow job from a prostitute as his mother watches, presumably unfazed. His own mother then helps remove the prostitute's clothing and observes in silence as her son performs
A sad and noble effort to bring the events of the genocide in Rwanda to a Western reading public; the dedication moved me almost to tears when I looked at it again after finishing the book. And yet for about three quarters of the novel it pretty much left me cold. The characterization was just not convincing or deep enough; the omniscient narrative voice was distanced and stiff, though this may have been a translation problem (it was written in French originally); there didn't seem to be any mot ...more
Missy J
Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. For a long time, I didn't want to read this book, because I knew the subject was painful. This book is written from the perspective of a Quebec Canadian journalist (Bernard) working in Rwanda. He lives in a luxurious hotel in the capital city of Kigali (hence, the title "A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali"), illuminating the absurdity of class difference, racial difference and on top of it all, the international "responsibility" of allowing a genocide to happen ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Some 800,000 people massacred in three months, most by machete-wielding neighbors: that was the horror which began 20 years ago today in Rwanda. The conflict was ostensibly between ethnic groups, the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi. But lines were blurred since many moderate Hutus were killed and anyone who has looked closely at the history of the African Great Lakes Region sees that the groups were often related and their differences were used by European powers to divide and conquer.

Gil C
Czarny Pies
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sunday at a Pool in Kigali is an excellent book to read today while Canada is campaigning for a seat on the United Nations Security council. The problem with Canada as Courtemanche points out in this novel is that Canada loves to appear important on the international scene but then fails in abject manner whenever it is given an important international assignment.

In the view of Courtemanche and several other Canadians who were in Ruanda at the time, the genocide could have been averted had the va
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What a difficult book to read through. Difficult because the events are so depressing. Never have I read a book with more graphic images of brutal scenes. I have to say that the book is very effective in conveying a memorable (fictional but not) account of the Rwandan genocide. As the saying goes, it is humanly possible to mourn the deaths of one or two or three but not of thousands. The author introduces you to a character then a few scenes later you find that this character that you formed a b ...more
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Forgot this was true while reading it. Was so impressed with the balanced human view of the Rwandans that it portrayed. Their view of the inevitably of death versus the clean portrayal of the genocide, I loved this book.
Richard Moss
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is a book that sat on my shelf for a while; its reputation based on reviews at the time of its publication in 2003.

I would say it has not aged well, but actually some of the criticisms I have of it do echo some of the more negative views of it from the time.

But let me start with its qualities. It is a heartfelt attempt to document the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and it does skewer the role of Colonialism in creating the conditions for disaster, and the inadequate response of Weste
Sonja Arlow
I actually started reading a more factual, journalistic account of the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide,We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families : Stories from Rwanda (sure to be one of my favourite books) but I was curious about how these facts would be portrayed in a novel which is essentially a love story – thus the reading and finishing of THIS book first.

Even though the book has been translated from French into English none of the power and gripping descriptiv
Sep 10, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this book difficult to get into and some of the writing didn’t sit well with me. The book is written by a Canadian journalist who re-visited Rwanda in the immediate aftermath of the genocide of the 1990s (he had left Rwanda just before the genocide). The author sort of writes himself into the story (which details the lead up to and the actual genocide) as a Canadian journalist who falls in love with a much younger Rwandan woman, Gentille. I felt like for much of their relationship, G
The problem with this book is that it presents both very good elements and very bad elements. So I can't say that I loved it for its informative and moving depictions of Rwanda in the lead up to the genocide of 1994, because there are aspects of this book that I just hated.

First of all, Gentille and Valcourt are supposed to be in love but it is really not shown, only said. And there is something about they came together and how their story is described that just felt very uncomfortable. Added t
This book was just complete rubbish for me. Endless drivel about the obnoxious cast of characters who are just hanging around this swimming pool. I didn't like any of these people so I couldn't bring myself to actually give a damn about their stories. It was difficult enough to focus on turning each page as my mind kept drifting off into wondering what the postman was going to bring me. My pain did not last long and this went straight in the bag for the charity shop. ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-author
Absolutely stunning novel about the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very raw, very explicit. Not only covers the build-up to the Rwandan genocide, but also the AIDS-epidemic. Even though they are two totally different books, there are some very clear similarities I noticed after reading Baking Cakes in Kigali prior to this one: The Rwandan men are depicted as sex driven beasts; it seems that's all they can think about and they don't give two shits if they happen to infect women with AIDS. Some of them do it deliberately, because "everyone is going to die anyways ...more
Marianna the Booklover
Even though I've read a lot about the Genocide, there is no way to "get used to" this subject. In his novel, Courtemanche doesn't shy away from realism and harsh observations (both in relation to the events themselves and to the disgraceful reaction of the international community) so if you find it difficult to read about such heavy topics, you might struggle here. The fact that it's a fictionalised account doesn't make it any easier. Still, it's a very good book and well worth reading. More on ...more
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book definitely rudely shook me out of my emotional comfort zone and gave me improved insight into the genocide and the resulting and ongoing physical and mental suffering in Rwanda. I still do not quite understand what drove apparently ordinary people to commit those over-the-top violent acts? I found the style of writing stilted and artificial, but that could be due to awkward translation. I also thought the sexual content was at times too much, too explicit and confronting; probably unne ...more
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is horrific and very honest. Another must for anybody who wants to spend time in the region and wants to understand how it can all go wrong very quickly. It’s incredible how people still tend to blame the colonial past for today’s problems. It’s time that we started to take responsibility for our own actions now.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
Couldn't get into it, so I ended it. The fact that is was compared to Heart of Darkness should have warned me off alone! ...more
May 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Interesting novel of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but the very unnecessarily graphic sex and violence detracts a great deal from the book
DNF - around page 99

Not in the mood for this right now… Might come back to it at a later date.
Gina Grone
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story itself in this book is mediocre. I didn't really connect with any of the characters until about 3/4 of the way through.

The subject matter in this book is...tragic...heart-breaking...mind-numbing...made-me-sob...unbelievable-until-you-know-it-really-happened.

The last 1/4 of the book is horrendous in a way that I was not prepared for. It broke me. I sobbed uncontrollably for a situation that a vast majority of the world has never even heard of. My heart broke to think of the public humil
Stoic Reader
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book on a gloomy, rainy day I think is not a good idea. Not because it offers no hope, in fact it does, but merely because the scenes are so horrifying and shocking that adds to the sullen mood of the moment. But how can a novel be so tragic and yet so beautiful? A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a bold story about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Mutilation, rape, hacking, betrayal, ethnic cleansing, you name it. It's all here. And yet Gil Courtemanche never wavers in depicting what ...more
I didn't like the writing style. ...more
Josine van Heek
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful and sad.
Bought and read it in Taipei ca. 2010.
Steve Lewis
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would make this part of the History 101 curriculum in schools! So bloody sad, horrible, but what an insight.
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Gil Courtemanche est journaliste depuis 1962.

Jusqu’en 1977, il a collaboré à différentes émissions radio et télé de Radio-Canada telles que Le 60, Métro Magazine et Présent national.

De 1978 à 1980, pour Radio-Canada toujours, il a conçu et animé l’émission L’Événement et a aussi été animateur et scripteur de l’émission Enjeux, tout en étant éditorialiste à la sation CBOT à Ottawa (réseau anglais).

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It’s no secret that the digital 21st century has been rough on the average attention span. Even for dedicated readers, it can sometimes be...
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“Propaganda is as powerful as heroin; it surreptitiously dissolves all capacity to think.” 24 likes
“You see, each country has a colour, a smell, and also a contagious sickness. In my country the sickness is complacency. In France it's arrogance, and in the United States it's ignorance."

"What about Rwanda?"

"Easy power and impunity. Here, there's total disorder. To someone who has a little money or powere, everything that seems forbidden elsewhere looks permissible and possible. All it takes is to dare it. Someone who's simply a liar in my country can be a fraud artist here, and the fraud artist gets to be a big-time thief. Chaos and most of all poverty give him powers he wouldn't have elsewhere.”
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