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Small Country

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  11,913 ratings  ·  1,419 reviews
A prize-winning bestseller in its native France, a vivid and evocative coming-of-age tale, set against the backdrop of the Rwandan genocide and the civil war in Burundi, of a young boy's childhood innocence shattered by the brutal tides of history.

In 1992, Gabriel, ten years old, lives in Burundi in a comfortable expatriate neighborhood with his French father, his Rwandan
Hardcover, 183 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Hogarth Press (first published August 24th 2016)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  11,913 ratings  ·  1,419 reviews

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Kylie D
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Small Country is the powerful coming of age tale of Gaby, a young mixed-race boy growing up in Burundi. He lives an idyllic lifestyle with his French father, Rwandan mother and his sister. Gaby is a typical ten year old, likes cycling, watching movies and swimming in the river with his friends. However darkness is looming on the horizon, and Gaby, his family and friends aren't ready for the war and genocide that takes over the country.

This is a gripping tale, how one young boy has to live throug
Diane S ☔
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This almost feels like two different stories, and in a way it is just that. The first part features a ten year old boy, Gabby, his sister And, his mother who was from Rwanda and his father, who is a French ex pat. It is marked by the innocence of youth, of being able to live a somewhat privileged life in a safe community. His days spent playing with his friends, their rivalry with a boy named Frances, his only worry the disintegrating relationship of his parents. In Burundi, the first democratic ...more
War always takes it upon itself, unsolicited, to find us an enemy. I wanted to remain neutral, but I couldn’t. I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belonged to it.

3.5 Stars. A coming-of-age tale set during the Burundian Civil War. Ten-year-old Gabriel lives in Burundi with his Rwandan mother and French father. He has a normal childhood in his beautiful homeland until the horrors of war arrive in his neighborhood. Gabriel wants to ignore all the conflict going on around him, but
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I‘ve seldom read a book that touched and moved me as much as Small Country. Told from the perspective of a young boy, it brings to life a bit of African history which is so terrible it once made international front page news but now seems quite forgotten: the genocide of the Tutsi in Burundi and Rwanda. Small Country talks of broken dreams, a stolen childhood, masses of innocents lives taken in the most brutal ways and a hatred which is profound and extremely hard to understand.
This book is one
In this emotionally charged book, Gaël Faye carefully navigates through a modern time where human depravity descended so deep into the abyss. Unfortunately, it seems human history is littered with wars and atrocities, however, we sometimes seem to really outdo the horror, especially when the cruelty is incited from a systematic national directive of genocide. Can we continue to describe this as human? In 1994 the racial tensions between Hutu and Tutsi made global news for the brutal ma
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are two themes in Gael Faye’s book, Small Country, relatable and unimaginable.
Relateable is 10 year old Burundian native, Gaby, in the beginning bricks back memories at that age of spending days in the neighborhood with friends, getting into simple mischief and exploration of his neighborhood. He was just leaving the age of innocence and just beginning to understand life.
His only real worry at that time was watching the distance and separation growing between his mother, who was from Rwand
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: publisher, reviewed
This short book is written in the form of a memoir by the 33 year old Gabriel who is now living in France. The story is set in Burundi during 1992 and 1993 when Gabriel aged 10/11 is living in an expat neighborhood with his younger sister Ana and their French father Michel and Rwandan (Tutsi) mother Yvonne. This is the second book I've read this month about the genocide in Rwanda. The first book (nonfiction) told me that it was the Belgians who had sorted the Rwandans into ethnic groups Tutsis, ...more
This is not your classic immigrant story: In his debut novel, musician Gaël Faye does not talk much about the life of a refugee in France. Rather, he talks about life in Burundi, where the happy childhood of his protagonist Gaby starts to disintegrate when his parents (a Tutsi from Rwanda and a Frenchman) separate and it becomes less and less feasible for the adults around him to shelter him from the growing political turmoil. Gaby witnesses different forms of violence and finally neighbouring R ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
It had moments that were very compelling, but the overall story was disjointed and felt incomplete. There wasn't anything particularly special about the writing; it was a fine translation. I do think it's cool that the author is a musician, and I definitely want to check out his work. ...more
Book of the Month
Why I Love it
by Liberty Hardy

I’ll be honest: This is a slim novel with very a serious subject. But! It is also the kind of book that will stay with you for a long time. Set amidst the beautiful scenery of Africa and based on a dark chapter in Burundi’s history, Small Country—which won France’s most prestigious literary award—is a powerful, important story about family, cultural differences, and war.

Gaby is a boy of ten living in Burundi with his French father and Rwandan mother. The novel begin
Once I got into the rhythm of this, which is to say, reading in French, and getting past the need to look up too many new words, I couldn't put this down, by the time I found my own reading rhythm, the life of Gaby and his sister Ana, his parents, his friends had its claws in me and I had to know what was going to happen next.

The book starts with Gaby reflecting on a conversation with his father, a turning point in his understanding of the ethnic origin of his people, of the difference between t
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
“I used to think I was exiled from my country. But, in retracing the steps of my past, I have understood that I was exiled from my childhood. Which seems so much crueler.”

This book made an impression on me, and it certainly educated me. Admittedly, I had Wikipedia at the ready to search on certain of topics as I was reading, so as to have a better background on the political climate during the civil war and genocides in Burundi and Rwanda (yes, I was woefully uninformed).

Gabriel’s struggle
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book. Powerful in its intensity. Here we view the horrors of genocide through the eyes of an eleven year old boy in Burundi. Gabriel recounts his experiences twenty years after witnessing the murders and brutality that took place in his home country of Burundi and its neighbor Rwanda in 1994. Faye claims the novel is not autobiographical, but is based on his experiences at the outbreak of the civil war. And what terrible experiences they are. This slim novel carries a heavy punch. I ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Just plain wow. If this book does not make you think or feel then you're dead inside. And to think I almost passed on this book. The description did not interest me. The cover certainly did not! I do not understand it at all. I used to believe I was above judging a book by its cover, but this is proof that I am not immune. The only reason I even looked twice at this book was the fact it was a BOTM selection. I have found that those books that make the cut are usually pretty vibrant storie
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, 2018
**I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.**

Another one of those I just glimpsed the cover and didn’t read the synopsis books. I like to mix up my reading list with this kind of random and most of the time it pays off. It’s the spur of the moment decisions that can make life more interesting and worth living. They add a little extra spice and can keep the monotonous every day BS at bay.

This was a fan-damn-tastic read. Not at all in my norm but I am so happy I went for it. It
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Small Country is a beautiful book that is filled with perfectly drawn anecdotes that tie Gaby's young life together. It is a powerful story that tells of a world that can be raw and bleak yet full of innocence. I can see why this novel is so popular in France and can predict it will have many fans here in the US. Highly recommended.

Btw I wrote this review while streaming Faye’s music. I really like his songs too.

Thank you to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and Gaël Faye for the advanced copy for re
Fault lines

Musical recommendations:
Petit Pays - Gaël Faye

A-France - Gaël Faye

The author and his text:
Gaël Faye is a Franco-Burundi singer-songwriter and writer; Petit Pays (= Small Country) deals with the author's own chilhood memories, inextricably mixed with the events of the civil war in Burundi (October 21, 1993) and the Tutsi genocide in neigbouring Rwanda (1994). This text offers variations on Gaël Faye's cultural ties with both countries and with France, introducing us to his
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genocide is an oil slick; those who don't drown in it are polluted for life

This is such a heavy but necessary read. Short in pages but packs a huge punch. Haunting and so beautiful.

The book is told from ten year old Gabriel's POV, who lives with his French father, Rwandan mother and sister in Burundi. We are thrust into Gabriel's idyllic world with his group of expat friends enjoying a sheltered life. There world is rocked when Burundi and Rwanda is hit by a war and genocide.

Small Country is
Mar B
4.5 stars!

Wow. What a beautiful and powerful read! A must read!

The prose is so innocent, poetic and lyrical but the story is so incredibly crude and real!

It is a fiction story but it reads as a memoir because it is such an emotionally charged and chilling story!

Like many stories based in true events, it makes you reflect about how humankind doesn't seem to learn from history and how we the make the same mistakes over and over again!

It is also a very interesting take on these historical facts be
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I never read another book after finishing Gaël Faye’s Small Country, I will be okay. A coming of age story, this book tells us about the abbreviated childhood of a young man who, as the progeny of a Rwandan mother, herself a refugee from childhood, and a French expat father, who is born to Burundi, but is not entirely of that place. He and his sister, children of considerable privilege, are touched deeply by their parents own dysfunction, which is nothing compared to what awaits them as confl ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written story of a sensitive boy coming of age in Burundi around the time of the Hutu slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi. If you want context, I highly recommend Phillip Gourevitch’s unforgettable We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families.
This is a small book but it punches well above its weight. Very moving.

It's 1993 and Gabriel is a 10yo mixed-race boy living in Bujumbura, which at the time was the capital of Burundi, a small central African nation bordered by Rwanda and Zaire. His isn't an idyllic childhood, but it is certainly privileged; marred only by the disintegrating marriage of his French father Michel and his Rwandan Tutsi refugee mother Yvonne. He spends his free time playing, going on adventures and generally having
Small Country is a nostalgic ode to Burundi in the 90s, childhood and lost innocence. This book will make you cry your heart out for Africa and the senseless wars she has and continues to endure. Through this slim but powerful book we view the horrors of genocide through the eyes of an 11 year old boy in Burundi.

The scene opens with Gaby on his 33rd birthday in Paris on what appears to be an annual bout of melancholy and you get the sense of displacement, of not belonging, in the protagonist. H
Missy J
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very quick read despite the gruesome subject matter. The writing is very simple, written from the perspective of a child; Gaby, a half French half Rwandan boy, who grew up in Burundi in the 80s and early 90s. It's clearly stated at the beginning of the book that this is a work of fiction, but you can tell that the author was heavily inspired by his own expatriate childhood (he's what some would call a Third Culture Kid).

Some readers complained that they couldn't connect to the protagonist and
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This slender debut novel is about a boy's idyllic life in his "small country" of Burandi (which neighbors Rwanda) and the abrupt end of his childhood with the onset of civil war and genocide. Beautifully written and potent. ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it

This is well written/translated and covering horrific events from a childs POV. However my previous read to this, was another book about war (different country/different time period) and I did just not feel as much connection to the characters here till the end.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am really happy that I decided to read more books which won the Goncourt Prize of the Highschools. The winning book is chosen by pupils, so they should be good. Most of the time, my opinions are very different to the opinions of professional literature critics.
I have already read Guenassia's "Club of the incorrigible optimists" (2009 Prize) and I loved it. Gael Faye's "Petit pays" (2016 prize) makes no exception. Faye's writing is simple yet charming. His story develops slowly, Faye is keener
Pam Walter
The "Small Country" referred to in the title would be Burundi, a neighbor of Rwanda, also caught up in the civil wars of the 1990s. While this is listed as a work of fiction, it would seem to be drawn from Gaël Faye's personal experiences coming of age in war-torn Burundi. Ten year old Gabriel (Gaby), younger sister Ana, a French father and Rwandan (Tutsi) mother, are living an idyllic life when their world is turned upside down by the earth shattering effects of a war with no rules of civility, ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautiful book asks what effect war and genocide has on the identity of a young boy coming of age amongst unimaginable horrors. Set in Burundi and Rwanda in the early 90s it tells of the trauma of those places at that time. But it also highlights the beauty and innocence of life before war and the desire to return to it (the book is fairly evenly split in two). I have no doubt that in 20 years time I’ll be reading a similar story from a Syrian writer. The translation by Sarah Ardizzone is e ...more
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French-Rwandan Gaël Faye is an author, composer and hip hop artist. He was born in 1982 in Burundi, and has a Rwandan mother and French father. In 1995, after the outbreak of the civil war and the Rwandan genocide, the family moved to France. Gaël studied finance and worked in London for two years for an investment fund, then he left London to embark on a career of writing and music. He is as infl ...more

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