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The Hired Man

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,737 ratings  ·  409 reviews
The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published March 28th 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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Dave You can start with the Wikipedia articles on the "Yugoslav Wars". These help to fill in the gaps.

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Duro Kolak is 46-years old. He lives a quiet, solitary life in Gost, a beautiful, isolated town in Croatia. His two dogs, Kos and Zeka, accompany him on his rambles through the fields and woods, looking for game for his supper. He occasionally ventures into town to buy bread, or to have a drink at the Zodijak, where he seems to sit at a remove from old friends and neighbors. His is a watchful, quiet, solitary life.

As Aminatta Forna's latest novel The Hired Man opens, Duro's hunting is interrupt
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book has been well summarized in numerous reviews here, but I wanted to add a response to some reviewers who feel that this book doesn't adequately address the atrocities of the Balkan wars, and that the narrator doesn't specify the political details, or who was killing whom. The author manages to sink the reader so thoroughly into the narrator's mind that I believe she's successfully captured the mindset of the people who were caught up in these conflicts, who didn't see them coming until t ...more
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Now, here's a thing, a British woman writer of Sierra Leone extraction writing a novel from the point of view of a Croatian man living in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of recent history. And doing it oh so very well. This book will pull you in. Into the man who leads a limited, disciplined, rustic life for reasons not yet known. Who comes to know a British family, the mother in particular, who blunder into a village of secrets and anguish by buying an old house at a bargain price as a picture ...more
Aminatta Forna was already established as one of my favourite writers before I read this, the first book she has written that is set entirely outside Africa. She brings her experience of civil war in Sierra Leone to this subtle and devastating account of the wars in the former Yugoslavia and their aftermath. It is particularly strong on how civilisation in society breaks down, and how fragile any healing process can be. Like all Forna's work, the book is also beautifully written.
Britta Böhler
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A beautiful book about how the Yugoslav Wars affected (and still affect) a small Croatian village. Shown very quietly and without any 'special effects'. Highly recommended!
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Early on in this 300-page book is a stark passage from the 46 year old narrator of the story:

“I’ve lived here for 18 years, and maybe with luck I’ll live twice as long again. More than likely I shall die alone, as I live now, and as I have no executor a person or persons will be appointed to come and deal with my estates, sort my belongings into piles to sell and throw. They will go through my papers and when they do they will find this. Maybe that person is you. Or at least, I have to tell this
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
No, I did not learn my lesson from Breathless, and entered yet another First Reads Giveaway because I liked the cover. This one, however, paid off by actually being a GOOD BOOK.

Duro, a lifelong resident of Gost, is startled to find that the home of his childhood friend is now owned by an Englishwoman and her two teenagers. He introduces himself and is hired to revive the old house. Before long, he has insinuated himself into the family's lives, though his status is not quite so well defined. Whi
Viv JM
The Hired Man is set in the small village of Gost in Croatia and tells the story of the impact an English family's arrival has on the inhabitants there. The story is told from the perspective of the family's neighbour Duro who befriends them and helps them to renovate the house. Duro's narrative switches from the present to memories of what happened in Gost during the War of Independence some years earlier. The reveal is a slow one, with the tension expertly built by Forna's wonderful writing.

Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
So much of what is in this book is not written on its pages but is felt between the lines and by some but not all of the characters within it. Full of atmosphere, an unspoken history, mistrust and those who want to forget and those who need to remember.

An English family move into the blue host in the village of Gost and their neighbour helps them to make repairs, he is one who wishes to remember, however his actions and the presence of foreigners will irk some who prefer to forget.

Brilliantly or
Kasa Cotugno
I don't say this often, but this book left me breathless.

According to the notes, Aminatta Forn has not lived in Croatia, but has lived in other troublesome parts of the world. In The Hired Man, she creates such a vivid landscape that it makes it hard to believe she wasn't there. The conflict of the early 90s in the former Yugoslavia, a civilized country that had recently hosted the Olympics, was a tourist destination of surpassing beauty, is given a human face. Duro, the narrator, the eponymous
Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 5
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Emotional impact: 5
Overall rating: 5
Favorite character(s): Grace
Favorite quotes:
"How do you trace your way back to the place where a feeling changed, the course of a friendship turned a corner and became something else?" p. 83

"I guessed that Laura was one of those people who preferred the music of a lie to the discordance of truth." p. 92

"There's nothing new about this story of ours, such things happen. Love misses its mark, arrives too early or
Marc Faoite
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was ok

Author Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, but spent much of her childhood overseas. Her previous two novels The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones have won numerous awards and her memoir The Devil that Danced on the Water was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize. She will be one of the panel of judges for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

The Hired Man is her latest novel and is set in a fictional town named Gost in present-day Croatia. Laura is an Englishwoman with two teenaged children and an ab
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have read in a while. Masterful storytelling and excellent writing reveal to us the story of a small fictional town (Gost) in Croatia years after a bloody civil conflict. The title of the town is clever in that its pronunciation "ghost" describes what the book is about - the deep dark secrets and hauntings that hang over the town and its remaining inhabitants - and the word "Gost" which means "guest" or "visitor" describes the vehicle of the story - the arrival of outside ...more
Maya Panika
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
An English family take a house in Croatia, planning to spend the summer doing it up before selling it on, apparently oblivious to the horrors that had happened around them not so very long ago - or are they? The pre-teen daughter knows more than she lets on to her mother, or does her mother simply not want to know? Duro - the local man hired to renovate a house he knows too well - isn't telling, and will never tell. He, like everyone around him, has wrapped himself in lies to protect him from ni ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I certainly liked the ambition of this story - the very slow reveal of what happened in a village called Gost during the break up of Yugoslavia in the 90s. It is told on a very personal level through the eyes of the enigmatic narrator, Duro. It is a powerful and sad story but although it started so strongly the middle section really dragged and the whole was only redeemed in the last few pages. It is hard to be so middling on a book that tackles these themes of war and loss and betrayal but ther ...more
My Reading Days
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
More than a 4 star but not quite there as a 5 star for me. And I think that is my problem not the book’s.
For me it was such an interesting look at the distance that needs to be created by a person who went through so much trauma and continues to live in the town where it happened.
Sometimes I wanted to scream at Duro because of his lack of emotion but by the end I understood that this was a result of the distance he had to create in order to survive his every day.
Such a powerful lesson and tol
Carl R.
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Anne Lamott once stated that "If your narrator [fascinates] … , it isn't … going to matter if nothing much happens for a long time." She might have been writing about Aminatta Forta's The Hired Man.

The book opens thusly: At the time of writing I am forty-six years old. My name is Duro Kolak.

Kolak lives in a Croation village named Gost. An English lady and her two teen-agers--a boy and a girl--arrive to take up residence in an old house he has been tending to. She hires him to do repairs. He des
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The town of Gost, Croatia. Post-Yugoslavia, post-war, and it's no coincidence that the name sounds a bit like "ghost." Everyone left is haunted but not really talking about it. An English family moves into a house that has been vacated, and hires a local to help fix it up. The reader learns more about the story of the man and the town as he writes it up and remembers bits and pieces.

Definitely a slow burn. Most of the novel is taken up with Duro and his interactions with the English characters,
John Bartlett
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the sort of book that makes you neglect essentials,
chores like sleeping and going to work, snatching minutes here and there to keep absorbed in the writing and the story.
And then it makes you sad when it's all over. A true seduction.
There's a deceptive beauty to the writing which masks a story of the horrors of war as it is slowly revealed to the reader.
This story is imbedded in the sad history of the war in the former Yugoslavia, a story of tight communiies the secrets they hide.
This i
I thought this was a masterfully told tale. One of my favs for the year.
Written by a female author Scottish-born of Sierra Leone parentage, it tells the story of Duro and his experiences of the recent Balkan Wars.
It is so subtly written, it is an onion of a book - layers are peeled away revealing Duro's war-time experiences and how he deals with it in the post-War days. Brilliant.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Forna writes so beautifully.
Rhuddem Gwelin
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
With a slow deliperate pace and careful choice of words Forna creates an everyday world with everyday people in a Croatian village which has torn itself apart with war, betrayal and secrets. Recommended.
Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)
So much of the essence of The Hired Man is not written in its pages but is read between the lines, inferred from the gaps and contemplations that dot the narrative, all the unsaid things hinted at. Set in a small Croatian town, Gost, in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, you follow a British family moving into an old house in this town with the idea of fixing it up for sale. You follow the story from the perspective of Duro, a 45-year-old man, a town local who becomes the handyman for this Britis ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
(My rating: 4½ stars out of 5)

Gost is a small Croatian town in the year 2007, whose apparent peacefulness belies deep seated animosities between its citizens that resulted from the Croatian War for Independence and its aftermath. Its people generally prefer to remain in the town in which their ancestors have resided for hundreds of years than move elsewhere, so they have little choice but to co-exist with each other and keep their feelings hidden, in the manner of a simmering pot of stew that is
Melissa Joulwan
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Set in the fictional village of Gost in Croatia, this is a very moving and mysterious story of the aftermath of the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. The action of the book takes place in 2007, when outsiders—a British woman named Laura with her teenage daughter and son—move into an abandoned house. Laura sees the Croatia she wants to see: a bucolic countryside full of possibility. But... "Laura wanted cheese and cured meats, olives soaked in oil and vine tomatoes, like in Italy. Instea ...more
Wow. This book was terrific. It was so much was seething beneath the surface, and so much was just chipped away so, so slowly.

Duro, the narrator, was one of the most solitary, self-contained characters I've ever read. His solitude was not loner-loserdom, though. It was truly his witness to the life in his home village Gost and and how it was touched by the Balkan Wars in the '90s when he was a young man.

The counterpoint in Duro's life are an English family who purchase his neares
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I initially gave this book 5 stars, but dropped it down to 4. I wish I could give it a 4.2 rating. I wanted to give it 5 stars to indicate that I thought it was one of the best books I have read for my personal challenge to read 50 novels in a year, but then had to ask myself if I wanted my friends to interpret that as me truly feeling this book was amazing, perfect, etc. It is really good, in my opinion, but just not *quite* there.

Part of that comes from the fact that the author is trying to wr
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this story of a family who come to a small village called Gost in Croatia for the summer and their relationship with one of those villagers; Duro.
Right from the beginning there is a feeling of inevitability in the story, that there is a secret in the past that is going to emerge as the novel unfolds. Initially there is only vague reference to the history of the village and the characters in it and what there is focuses on the childhood of Duro and his friends. The animo
Andy Weston
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful story of a village in Croatia and the changes that it’s inhabitants undergo during the Balkans war of the early 1990s.
I particularly appreciate it having cycled through the region this last summer.
Forna’s writing is beautiful. The most startling thing about the war is how it set neighbours against each other, people whose families had lived together for generations. This novel gets that across very clearly. Furthermore, she explains how such neighbours that found themselves
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like peeling an onion - layer after layer before the whole backstory is revealed. I really liked how the author did this.

The story takes place in a small town/village in Croatia about ten years after the most recent Balkan war. Duro is 46 years old. Some of his family died in the early stages of the war. The rest have left. He works with his hands and is an accomplished repairman. He lives alone and one morning runs into the English woman who seems to have moved into the "b
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Aminatta’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries including “The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu” (BBC Television, 2009) and “Girl Rising” (CNN, 2013).

Aminatta is a Fel

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