Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sweetness In The Belly by Camilia Gibb

Passion, Pain, Love, Innocence, Angst, Longing, Frustration, Hope, Warmth - these are some of the elements that make this novel worth reading. It also throws light on some sensitive issues like Female Genital Mutilation, politics, war, tribal fights. But despite all this, it is a light and touching story. Camilia Gibb has woven the character Lilly in such a way that she tends to grow on you as you move ahead with the novel.Sweetness In The Belly is a story of a girl called Lilly who visits Morocco when she is eight years old with her British hippie parents. Her parents leave her under the care of a Sufi saint at a Sufi shrine in Morocco for three days but after three weeks she gets the news that her parents are murdered. The saint becomes her caretaker and leads her into intense study of the Quran. She starts finding solace in learning the Quran. When she turns sixteen, she goes on a pilgrimmage but her journey gets halted at Harar, Ethiopia. In Harar she is all own her own as she gets separated from her partner. There she stays in a dirt floored compound with a poor woman called Nouria and her four children. Lilly fights hard to make her place there among those people and gain their acceptance as they treat her as farenji (foreigner)and see her with suspicious eyes. She starts teaching Quran to Nouria's children and other village children. Through this, she also makes poor Nouria's life a bit better and life little easier. She starts adopting their ways and makes an effort to learn their language and mannerisms. She falls in love with a half-Sudanese doctor called Aziz but the two get separated. Due to the political tensions, Aziz asks her to leave the country and go to London while he stays back for the war.In London, Lilly feels like an outsider inspite of having British roots. There she comes across a pregnant woman called Amina, a refugee from Ethiopia, whom she helps deliver her baby. Lilly brings Amina and her two children to her house and takes care of them. The two women set up a community association to re-unite refugees with lost family members. They do this not out of any altruistic motive but to find out about their loved ones, Amina her husband, Yusuf and Lilly, her love Aziz who resides in her heart and memories. Lilly's wait for Aziz ends after seventeen years when she learns that he is dead. In those seventeen years, Lilly's life comes to a standstill where she could not overcome her past and was living in the hope that one day she will meet Aziz.The novels ends on a happy note where Lilly decides to move on in life and see it as a new beginning.
About The Author

Camilla Gibb was born in London, England, and grew up in Toronto. She has a B.A. in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Toronto, completed her Ph.D. in social anthropology at Oxford University in 1997, and spent two years at the University of Toronto as a post-doctoral research fellow before becoming a full-time writer.
She is the author of three novels, numerous short stories, articles and reviews, winner of the Trillium Book Award in 2006, a Giller Prize nominee in 2005, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award in 2000 and the recipient of the CBC Canadian Literary Award for short fiction in 2001. Her books have been published in 18 countries and translated into 14 languages and she was named by the jury of the prestigious Orange Prize as one of 21 writers to watch in the new century.
Camilla serves as the Vice President of
PEN Canada and is currently at work on a new novel. She has been writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto, where she is now an adjunct faculty member of the English Department's MA in Creative Writing Program.

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