This book has shot to the top of my list of books to save should my house catch fire. Perhaps I should put all books in this category on a shelf near the front door. In any case, it is an amazing book. It is so amazing I have nearly reached the stage of stopping strangers in the street to tell them about it.
Irene Sabatini has written a story to treasure. There are many books about being transplanted from one culture to another and having to negotiate differences but, in this novel, the differences of ethnicity, nationality and gender are worn lightly. Whatever else they are, they are not a burden.
The narrator of the story is Robert, a 10 year old Zimbabwean-Italian who lives in Geneva. His father is Italian and his mother is Zimbawean. We hear about his grandparents from both countries but the action is based around his apartment in Geneva where he lives with his parents and his older brother. While Robert is the bookish boy his brother, George, is the cool soccer player.
There is also a strand of the old empire here as one of Robert’s neighbours is an old man with a past in Kenya when the Mau Mau were active. As Robert tries to work out what this man’s story actually is, modern Africa intrudes in the shape of an Aunt who is active in the opposition movement in Zimbabwe.
Irene Sabatini weaves the strands together; Robert’s mother is an author and his father works for the Red Cross and both have a world view that shapes the young boy as he negotiates his own problems. I loved Robert and I loved his cool brother but most of all I loved the natural way diversity was natural background rather than an issue to be dealt with. Here were people it would be worth getting to know.
‘Peace and Conflict’ by Irene Sabatini is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?