Gurnah’s The Last Gift Reviewed

The Telegraph reviewed the latest book by Abdulrazak Gurnah ‘The Last Gift’.

Abbas has never told anyone about his past. Now, as he lies dying in Norwich, he feels a need to confess his “dark secret” to his wife, Maryam, and children, Jamal and Hanna. All anyone knows about Abbas’s history is that he is from East Africa. His family, language, religion, even the country in which he was born, remain a mystery. And to confuse the children further, their mother was a foundling, ignorant of her family background. Although born and raised in England, Jamal and Hanna “cannot shake off a sense of apartness”.

Thirty-year-old Hanna is now a teacher living in London with a cold-hearted academic named Nick. Nick’s English relatives are the most vividly described characters in the novel. Frosty, condescending and oozing self-importance, they bore Hanna with sermons declaiming the superiority of the English race. Uncle Digby, a vicar, seems particularly hell-bent on highlighting Hanna’s ignorance about her family, delightedly squeezing out the last drop of humiliation. 

As always with Gurnah’s work, the end is not neatly tied but ragged with open-ended strands. There are minutely observed descriptions of the English attitude towards immigrants which, although caustic at times, reveal the warmth of the author’s heart. The sinister tension of the first half would be unbearable were it not for the lyricism of the language and the exquisitely drawn characters which make every sentence a delight to read.

Read full article @ The Telegraph



~ by eneryvibes on 1,May 20, 2011.

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