Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
A twisting labyrinth of stories from large group of interconnected families in Oman. Each chapter is a stream of consciousness reflection on a part of their lives from the past or future. Just like all families, they have their secrets. It doesn’t really all come together until the end but you can sort of guess what’s coming. They all struggle with following tradition, and with the decision to follow their family’s wishes or their own.
I sort of enjoyed this book but I had to turn back to the family tree at the beginning of the book almost every time I read it. The names of the characters are difficult to remember, and a few of the characters have the same name. Each chapter is named after the character. Every chapter bounces from one character to the next, causing me to bounce back to the beginning of the book to view the family tree.
The setting of Oman didn’t pop out for me as strongly as settings in other translated fiction books I’ve read. I was a bit disappointed with this book overall. I didn’t come away knowing too much more about Oman after reading this book. This is a very underwhelming book, especially considering it somehow was the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019. At least 60 of the other novels I read this year are better than this one.
Just off the top of my head if you want a way better translated fiction novel try: Disoriental (Iran) by Négar Djavadi and The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien (Iraq).
Book #73 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge",