Strangers did not, as a rule, find their way to Chez Dom, a small Tunisian cafe in Paris. Run by the widow Houria and her young niece, Sabiha, the cafe offters a home away from home for the North African immigrant workers at the great abattoirs of Vaugirard, who, as with Houria and Sabiha themselves, have grown used to the smell of blood in the air. When one day a lost Australian tourist, John Patterner, seeks shelter in the cafe from a sudden Parisian rainstorm, a tragic love story begins to unfold. – from the blurb
I came to this book with a slight bias, as I have been an Alex Miller since reading two earlier novels of his – Coal Creek and The Passage of Love. This book, as I expected, didn’t disappoint at all. This is my second read of this novel. I love Alex Miller’s style of writing and his characterisations. Passages of writing in this book are extremely beautiful and slowed down my reading, as I was compelled to read them over and over.
“John was the quiet type … Except when he was telling me his story. Even then there was something quiet and private in the way he spoke about himself and Sabiha; as if he was telling himself the story; going over it to find its meaning for himself. Looking for something he’d missed when it was happening to him”.
I felt empathy for the main characters, as their inner dialogue made me understand their turmoil. I didn’t love every character, but it was the author’s writing that had me form my opinions. I did have a love/hate relationship with some of the characters, but that only added to my enjoyment of the story.
This story is more than a love story. It’s also about power, struggle and loneliness and how they affect a love story. It is also a story within a story, which I found compelling. This novel stayed with me and had me thinking long after I had finished reading it.
I read the hardcover version of this book. It is a beautifully presented book and will have a permanent position on my bookshelf. I’m sure I will read it again in the future for the beautiful writing.
Published 2009, by Allen & Unwin. Hardcover, 354 pages
“Miller belongs with Gunter Grass, Ismail Kadare and JM Coetzee. He is essential reading” – The Australian
“Alex Miller is one of our most profound and interesting writers” – Australian Book Review
New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Christina Stead Prize for Fiction & People’s Choice Award (2011)
Miles Franklin Literary Award Nominee (2010)
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Nominee for Fiction (2010)
The Age Book of the Year (2010)
Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) Nominee for Literary Fiction (2010)
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
About the Author
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