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(Past Imperfect #2)

2.98  ·  Rating details ·  255 ratings  ·  56 reviews
From the internationally acclaimed author of North of Dawn comes "a beautiful, hopeful novel about one woman's return to war-ravaged Mogadishu" (Time)

Called "one of the most sophisticated voices in modern fiction" (The New York Review of Books), Nuruddin Farah is widely recognized as a literary genius. He proves it yet again with Knots, the story of a woman who returns to
Paperback, 422 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Penguin Group (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 2.98  · 
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Meh. I just could not get into this book. The characters neither acted nor sounded like real people. They all talked the same way and all made long speeches with big words -- even the character Gacal, who I think was only about ten years old. Cambara, the protagonist, goes to Somalia to escape a horrible marriage, grieve her dead son and reclaim her family's property which has been taken by a warlord. She shows up and right away half of Mogadishu comes to her saying, "We will help you! We will d ...more
Jan 02, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish

Kelly picks up this book at the U library because the author will be a visiting professor there in the fall. It was already on her list, this seems like the time.

From the get go, she is a little put off by the voice. It's third person present, narrating the activity as it happens. She always hates this kind of voice--she used to have a friend who wrote all of her short stories like this. Seeing another author use this voice, now Kelly knows why her friend's stuff was so annoying.

Cambara, the pro

Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a tough one, because in sprawl, vision, and story construction this novel is great and it kept me mesmerized all the way through (and it's a long one!); but the writing is so infuriatingly sloppy... ugh. my best guess is that someone was in a hurry to put this out, and no one had time to go over it and edit it. many sentences are simply atrocious -- really badly written. this is by anyone's standards. just open the book at random and you are basically guaranteed to come across one of the ...more
May 29, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: somalia
The writing was choppy. If you've ever been in a boat on stormy waters...

So I decided, 30 pages in, that I was going to speed read. That helped. There is an adequate story underneath the writing and the author depicts some deep relational and emotional situations.

The narration was odd. The main character, Cambara, seemed to be unstable, just a tad. And it was difficult to enjoy her voice at times because of this emotional or mental instability. An odd character.

But I enjoyed getting a picture,
Nov 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Although it's always interesting to delve into other cultures, this was ultimately frustrating and disappointing. The writing style was oddly formal and awkward, and the characters' motivations perplexing and inconsistent. Even the main character's reasons for returning to Somalia didn't make any sense -- why would a woman seeking to start a new life go to a place where women have so little power or control? Her tenuous connection to the country, and her feelings towards her initial host made he ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
I found this book extremely hard to stomach. As a woman, I found the author's thoughts regarding what it means to be a woman and a woman's inner thoughts completely off base and at times degrading. On the other hand, this based-on-fact and-history book was a porthole to a previously unaccessible Somali world. ...more
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much of this story is the unfolding of what is in the mind of Cambara. Ater her son dies, she returns to Somalia where she was born in order to find herself and grieve. From dreams to thoughts, we struggle through her decisions. For so much mulling over, she makes ones that turn out lucky but from my point of view, makes them without considering consequences. Too much that happens seems like she is blessed with luck. She gets help immediately even though her first former husband is chewing Qu ...more
I feel odd giving 2 stars to a writer as acclaimed as Nuruddin Farah. Its the first book of his I've ever read and I'm assuming his other works are better. I was quite disappointed in this book, which is about a Somali-Canadian woman who returns to Mogadishu to reclaim her family property from a warlord. Maybe I'm missing something, but the book just didn't impress me or have the sort of depth I was hoping for. Has anyone else read it? What did you think? Can anyone recommend another book by him ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I used to think that if I started a book I had to finish it. This was one of those books I just couldn't get into. I think I was about 80 pages in when I quit. I didn't really care about the characters, and found I was forcing myself to read on. I've heard good things about this author, so it could just be that I have too much on my mind right now.... ...more
Jo M. F.
May 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am currently still reading this although I started it a while ago because I could not get into the story at all. The writing is dense and was hard to follow. I will give it another try some time when my powers of concentration are better. This is not a book to read in bed at night when you are getting sleepy.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love the play within the play element of this book, the second in a trilogy about Somali Diaspora returning to Mogadishu. The narrator needs to reconcile feelings about the loss of her son, killed in Toronto rather than Mogadishu, by trying to save the wild and destructive youth of Mogadishu through theater.
My book for November and December was the novel Knots by the Somali author Nuruddin Farah. While the book had some interesting moments, it was not one of my favorites. It was tough to get into because of its long sentences and big vocabulary. Some online reviewers said it was closer to a PhD dissertation than to a novel. I'd have to agree with that. I almost switched to another book, but after getting through the first 50 pages, I at least understood enough to keep going.

The story is about a wom
Muna Mangue
This Somali writer, tells the story of Cambara, the only protagonist of this novel. She represents her as a strong and independent woman born in Somalia but her childhood and youth years were spent in the United States. After the misfortune that happened in his life, he decides to run away from America and return to Somalia to recover a property that belonged to his family and has been taken away in times of war.

This novel of thirty-two chapters is very well structured, it is easy to follow and
I couldn't finish this book. I found the writing was far too descriptive, which took away from the story. The over examination of every detail made the entire plot drag on. The basis of the story was a wonderful idea, however as the story developed I found that the main character was really not particpating in the events that made the story progress. Instead the protaginast Camabra was more focused on remembering the same few events in her past, asking for favours, over-analyzing her feelings an ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book anticipating something good, as I had heard about the author. I hadn't read anything by a Somalian, so thought it would be a way to get to know a little about the country and be immersed in a story by a moderately known voice. It was absolute disaster. Only telling, not showing, and what terrible telling too! Neverending sentences explaining things in too much unneeded detail, little things that don't tie up to the bigger picture, unnatural, wooden characters, no atmosphere w ...more
Melinda Rachlin
I enjoyed this novel but it was very slow moving. I was surprised to learn the author was male because I thought the story was written from a woman's point of view. I can give credit for that. For me the story had a bit of a fairy tale vibe to it, a living your best life in a tragic circumstance.

It was worth the read but this is not a beach read by a long shot.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: somalia
We read this for book club, and by the time the evening for discussion came around, we were all so annoyed it with that we joyously shared our favorite least believable moments and every now and then someone would try to play devil's advocate but not even be able to keep it up.
According to this book, Somalia is a lovely place, where you can easily achieve all your goals, get your hotel bill (and that of whatever random teenage boy you make eye contact with and decide to become his savior) for fr
Jan 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
well I didn’t get far in this novel of despair. It sure looked interesting…I’m swearing off foreign authors for the rest of my life…New hardback, 2007, 419 pgs.
Grace Lillian
I wanted to read this to learn more about Somalia. It was a bit of a slog...very slow-moving. But I liked Cambara’s backstory, the ending, and the Gacal subplot.
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book with a gift certificate Jeff gave me.

Nuruddin Farah's native country, Somalia, is shown in all its war-ravaged sadness in his harrowing novel, Knots. Cambara is a young Somalian-born woman who has spent most of her life in Toronto. Through the carelessness of her husband and his mistress, Cambara's son has drowned there and she is devastated by her grief. On a sudden impulse, she decides to go to Mogadiscio (Mogadishu) to properly grieve for her son and to try to wrest her fam
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century, fiction
Until I'd gotten about a hundred pages in I had thought my love affair with Farah's novels was over. But it's back on. Part of my problem was simply thinking that it was madness for someone like Cambara, the protagonist, to have come back to Mogadiscio, for reasons that seem obscure. And that aligned me with Zaak, Cambara's cousin, who is a complete arsehole. But then, as the story moves forward the possibility that this is madness lingers even as Cambara seems to be proving everyone wrong, and ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to learn about Somalia.
I would have given this book more stars except that I felt it sorely lacked dialogue. In spite of this, I learned a great deal from this most interesting novel about a woman moving from the US to Somalia (where she was born). Cambara's struggles to make a life in Somalia and to reclaim her family's property is riveting in many ways. Somalia (in particular, the city of Mogadiscio) is a place of extreme danger where warlords and armed young men roam the streets with AK-47's and where woman wear "b ...more
Kathleen (itpdx)
Jul 14, 2009 rated it liked it
A Somali woman whose only child has died and whose marriage has disintegrated returns to Somalia to try to wrest a family property from a war lord and to try to find some direction to her life. An interesting story but not necessarily well told. At first I thought the fact that Cambara was jet-lagged explained the disjointed narrative but the book continued that way. Sometimes I attributed it to the poor editing--extra words, sentences out of order but I think it was also the author's style.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
I hate myself for giving this book only 1 star, but I really was disappointed by this one. Having read S. by Slavenka Drakulic and other fiction based on civil wars, I expected this one to be deep, an eye-opener, a shocker, a kind of book that you have to put down for a minute or two to breathe and process the harshness of the story. I don't know if I expected too much or expected wrongly, but I am utterly disappointed by this. I wanted to finish the book to prove to others that this is actually ...more
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you all who care about somalia
written by a man but about a very powerful woman. a canadian somalian who returns to somalia and makes a place for herself in the old family home. after the civil war and navigating the various neighborhood militias, she carves out her plan of peace in a land loaded with child soldiers and ptsd. i kept waiting for something horrible to happen after each page i turned, many scenes set my heart racing. but our hero makes it through. the beauty of this book is that it de-escalates the sensational, ...more
Kathleen McRae
This book was a bit gruelling to read. I found the writing slightly hard to follow as though the author himself forgot his story while he caught up in details. It was the story of a woman who returns to her birthplace from Toronto, Canada to look for and try to reclaim her family home in Mogadishu.There she deals with the wars still reaching effects and an atmosphere of veiled and conservative Islam.not to mention the warlords who rule the city with their many battles for control.It is not a ver ...more
Pam Jessen
Jun 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't make it past the first 80 pages or so. The story may have turned out to be a good one, but the writing sytle is among the worst I've ever read. Perhaps it's because this book was translated into English from Farah's native language, but the run-on sentences-- the weird, disjointed similes tossed in-- the way the author would take two paragraphs to make a very simple point-- were all really difficult to get past. ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The plot is interesting, but I couldn't take the writing. I decided to give up last night when I realized that I was mentally diagramming the sentences in a vain attempt to make sense out of them. I am not sure if the incoherent sentences were supposed to be a style or if the author just writes that badly. ...more
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book about a Somali woman's move from Canada back to her native Mogadiscio. The network of charcters Cambera interacts with always seemed stiff and never really came alive. The book's strongest point is its portrayal of the dangers of life in Somalia and the far-flung impacts of the ongoing civil war. ...more
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Greatly enjoyed this novel about a woman's return to Somalia to mourn the loss of her son, reclaim her property, and stage a play. The author depicts the war torn city of Mogadishu, while offering a hopeful vision through the many individuals that work to create peaceful spaces.
The author is Somalian, currently living in South Africa.
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Nuruddin Farah (Somali: Nuuradiin Faarax, Arabic: نور الدين فرح‎) is a prominent Somali novelist. Farah has garnered acclaim as one of the greatest contemporary writers in the world, his prose having earned him accolades including the Premio Cavour in Italy, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize in Sweden, the Lettre Ulysses Award in Berlin, and in 1998, the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literat ...more

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