Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna

The Hired Man is a thought-provoking novel that describes the on-going effects of war on ordinary people. The story is told from the point of view of Duro, who lives in a shack on the outskirts of Gost, a small town in Croatia, with only two hunting dogs for company. When an English family moves into a neighbouring cottage, he’s ready to help, with his excellent English and renovations skills.

Laura and her teenage children become increasingly dependent on Duro and at first it seems the novel is about the awkward friendship that arises between Duro and this attractive Englishwoman whose husband is delayed by work in London. Duro even manages to break down Matt’s surly reserve and helps Grace with restoring a mosaic on the front of the house.

As the mosaic’s picture slowly emerges, so too does the story of Duro, his childhood, relationships and time away on the coast. We learn about when Gost was besieged by Serb forces during the Croatian War of Independence. Lingering hostilities develop that divide neighbours and former friends and Duro, forever out with his dogs and rifle, witnesses what can only be described as war crimes.

The Hired Man is a gripping read with its careful building up of tensions, both past and present. The setting of a Croatian town in summer creates a wonderful atmosphere and it is hard to believe Gost could be the scene of such violence. A powerful story about the importance of keeping memories alive – even the most painful.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue Link: The Hired Man

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