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.
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, sometime petty thief. He is a smooth-talker with an eye for a good game. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.
So, when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on Mahmood, he isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in s a country where, he thinks, justice is served. And at home his three little boys are waiting for him, as is Laura, fierce and full of love, ready to forgive his misbehaviour in a heartbeat if he can straighten up his act.
It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it dawns on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realize that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Happy Friday everyone! Today also marks the first day of the last quarter and the tenth month of the year. I hope you are ending your week in a high. It has been a tough year, with the pandemic still ongoing but I still hope you all reap the fruits of all that you have worked hard for this past year. I hope you get repaid, 10 times, 100 times more. I hope you achieve what you have dreamed of and that you have reached those stars you’ve trying to reach. I hope your prayers get answered and you are all happy and are all doing great, physically, and mentally. With 2022 just around the corner, I fervently pray for this pandemic to end soon; hope still springs eternal.
My original intention for September was to extend my August “New Books” reading month, where I read books published in the current year. But without design, the month started evolving into a 2021 Booker Prize reading month. Technically speaking, I am not deviating from my main motif for the month as most of the books in the Booker Prize longlist were published this year. I guess the announcement of the shortlist during the month formally paved the way for September to be a 2021 Booker Prize month. Of the thirteen longlisted books, I have completed reading six and, of the shortlist, I have completed three. I am currently locked up with my fourth shortlisted novel, Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men. With my seventh book from the longlist, 2021 has shaped up to be my most successful year in terms of Booker Prize nominated works.
Actually, The Fortune Men was one of the novels from the longlist that immediately grabbed my attention; I even featured it on my Goodreads Monday update. I thought it would take me time before I gain a copy of the book but, lo and behold, I managed to purchase a copy of the book shortly after it was announced as part of the shortlist. Another work of historical fiction – there are several in the longlist – The Fortune Men transports the readers to 1950s Cardiff, Wales. The story zeroes in on Mahmood Mattan, a Somali refugee who has become a regular presence in the city docks.
On the surface, Mahmood is a happy-go-lucky guy but he managed to swoon Laura. They got married and had three sons. However, moving out of her parent’s home unsettled Laura and after a couple of years, she abandoned her husband. Nevertheless, Mahmood earnestly tried to make amends with his wife and spend more time with his sons. Everything seemed to be fine until he was unceremoniously handcuffed by the coppers (the cops). One female shop owner was found dead. Surprised, Mahmood went along for he was sure of his innocence. However, pieces of evidence was mounting against him.
With about a hundred pages done, I am slowly getting my drift. What has stood out for me, so far, was Mohamed’s prose. It is a not as smooth flowing as A Passage North but there was a quality of literary fiction that hovered above the narrative. The tempo is a little slower as well, with Mohamed taking a bit of her time to lay out the landscape of the story. Nevertheless, as I dig deeper into the story, I am getting to understand more of Mahmood and his motivations. He does seem lazy, and relies more on luck but he genuinely cares for his wife and his sons.
From what I have read so far, the story explores a bevy of seminal themes such as the migration narrative and the other subjects attached to it such as discrimination, racism, and the miscarriages of justice. Now, what piques my interest is how Mahmood will respond to all of these. Will his misfortune finally dawn on him or will he still carry the façade of fearlessness when he realizes that the odds are against him? There are different dimensions to the narrative and I can’t wait to see how the story will unveil.
Despite month end closing activities, I am hoping to complete the novel this weekend. How about you fellow reader, what 2021 Booker Prize longlisted book do you have on your reading list? I hope you are enjoying what you are reading. For now, happy weekend and as always, happy reading!