First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Of all the celestial bodies, the moon is closest to the matters of this lower world.
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman live three sisters. Mayya marries after a heartbreak. Asma marries from a sense of duty. Khawla rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. Elegantly structured, Celestial Bodies is the story of the history and people of modern Oman told through one family’s losses and loves.
Time flew so fast that we’re already on the last Friday of September. The 10th month, October, and the last quarter of the year is knocking right around the corner. It feels like 2020 is eager to end and I honestly share its sentiment. With less than a hundred days more, I am hoping for a better 2021. But before I could lose myself in thoughts, it’s time to go back to the purpose of this First Impression Friday update.
After reading five “new” books consecutively, I am finally making a deviation. It is not much of a deviation really for Omani writer Jokha Alkarthi’s Celestial Bodies was published in 2019. It happens to be my current read because the copy I bought received about three days ago. I admit, it only made my reading list because it was adjudged as the winner of 2019 Man Booker International Prize. It is the first Arabic novel to take home the award.
Apart from winning the Man Booker International Prize, the allure of learning more about Oman, a country I only know of from what I have read in encyclopedias and newspapers, was irresistible. After all, there are a lot of things in this world that don’t know of and through reading literature, we are given an insight on these things. We are never too old to learn new things I guess.
At the heart of Celestial Bodies are three sisters – Mayya, Asma, and Khawla. They were born from an affluent family and each paved her own path. Well, not really paving their own paths, considering how patriarchal Arabic societies can be. Yes, their marriages were fixed for them by their parents and they didn’t have much of an option. The novel then diverges into each of the character’s individual strand.
And that was when the story got confusing. With less than 300 pages, Celestial Bodies is a quick read. This is the main reason I find the structure a little disconcerting; it feels rushed. I know many are praising it for the structure but I find there was one too many perspective that one has to follow. Moreover, these strands don’t seem to encompass or connect with other, not in a deeper sense anyway. Moreover, Alharth’s aversion to punctuations made it doubly challenging to appreciate and understand the narrative.
To her credit, I liked how Alharthi incorporated rich details of Omani and Arabic culture. They enhanced the tapestry of the story. The novel also tackled how Western influences is shaping modern Oman and its society. However, I still feel the story is a little bit abstract, a little too disjointed so far. I am nearing the end of the story and I am hoping that it will all come full circle in the end.
I am going to finish the book today and start a new one over the weekend. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!