Camilla Gibb was born in London, England, and grew up in Toronto. She has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Oxford University for which she conducted fieldwork in Ethiopia. Her two previous novels, Mouthing the Words, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award in 2000, and The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life, have been published in eighteen countries and translated into fourteen languages, receiving rave reviews all around the world. She is one of twenty-one writers on the Orange Futures List--a list of young writers to watch, compiled by the jury of the prestigious Orange Prize. Camilla lives in Toronto, where she serves as vice president of PEN Canada and is currently writerin-residence at the University of Toronto.
While Kate Reading has a beautiful narrator's voice, low and lilting, dramatic and enticing, her characterizations are problematic. She often uses an annoying little-girl voice for protagonist Lilly, a white Western woman raised in a Moroccan shrine as a devout Muslim, living through the 1970s among Ethiopian Muslims who consider her a "forenji" (foreigner) despite her Arabic fluency and her Islamic piety. Reading also casts many of the Ethiopian women in a harsh, high range that makes them sound rather silly. Still, this is an engrossing listen because the novel is well written and timely. Gibb's prose rhythms are lovely, her language sensuous, her images vivid and her story of love doomed by political reality dramatic and moving. We move back and forth between the daily routines of deeply devoted families in Harar in the 1970s as Ethiopia disintegrates, and of the exile community in London in the '80s as Lilly awaits word of her Sudanese lover, who chose to stay on to fight the Haile Selassie regime. Without avoiding cultural aspects Westerners find so repulsive-a description of ritual clitoridectomy is almost unbearable-the reading exposes us to Muslim communities quite different from those written about in daily newspapers, communities worthy of respect, concern and action. Available as a Penguin Press paperback. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Dumped at a Sufi shrine in Morocco by her hippie parents, who promptly get themselves killed, Lilly grows up studying the Qur'an. As an adult, she finds herself a despised foreigner on pilgrimage to Ethiopia but an outsider in London. Gibb here follows up fieldwork in Ethiopia for her Oxford Ph.D., plus a few award--winning novels in Canada. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Utterly convincing and authentic . . . a novel that will take you to a place so far from yourself that you may wonder, from time to time, whether you are ever coming back. (San Francisco Chronicle)
A story that pierces the heart . . . a lovely and humane book that . . . open[s] up to view distant or closed worlds. (The Miami Herald) A wonderful feat of imagination and empathy. I had to suppress bitter feelings of literary envy, even as I couldn't stop devouring it. (Louis de Bernieres, author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin)