The Hired Man

The Hired Man

4.0 2
by Aminatta Forna
     
 

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The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it

Overview


The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.

Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in the daily lives of those touched by it. With The Hired Man, she has delivered a tale of a Croatian village after the War of Independence, and a family of newcomers who expose its secrets.

Duro is off on a morning’s hunt when he sees something one rarely does in Gost: a strange car. Later that day, he overhears its occupants, a British woman, Laura, and her two children, who have taken up residence in a house Duro knows well. He offers his assistance getting their water working again, and soon he is at the house every day, helping get it ready as their summer cottage, and serving as Laura’s trusted confidant.

But the other residents of Gost are not as pleased to have the interlopers, and as Duro and Laura’s daughter Grace uncover and begin to restore a mosaic in the front that has been plastered over, Duro must be increasingly creative to shield the family from the town’s hostility, and his own past with the house’s former occupants. As the inhabitants of Gost go about their days, working, striving to better themselves and their town, and arguing, the town’s volatile truths whisper ever louder.

A masterpiece of storytelling haunted by lost love and a restrained menace, this novel recalls Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The Hired Man confirms Aminatta Forna as one of our most important writers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
In this moving novel from Forna (The Memory of Love), the scars left by the Croatian War of Independence underlie a deceptively simple account of a Croat developing a relationship with foreigners moving into his village. Exactly what Duro Kolak experienced in the fighting that enveloped Gost, his small town, is only hinted at for much of the book, creating a suspenseful backdrop. As the story opens in 2007, Duro meets Laura, an Englishwoman who has arrived in Gost with her family to start a new life. He offers her his assistance, even as other locals are less than pleased to have the newcomers around. Forna does an exquisite job of contrasting her leads’ perspectives on Gost—Laura thinks it’s “one of the most beautiful places” she’s ever been, while Duro sees past the tranquil surface to the region’s blood-soaked recent past. This is a powerful exploration of the impact that violence has on those who suffer it and those who inflict it. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

Praise for The Hired Man

“Forna is a born storyteller. . . . Not since Remains of the Day has an author so skillfully revealed the way history’s layers are often invisible to all but its participants, who do what they must to survive. . . . Gorgeous.”—John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“Absorbing and disturbing . . . Forna’s unwavering gaze compels a close look at the complexities of our shared histories. . . . The questions she asks—What is the price of memory? How do we bear the burden of forgetting?—demand attention.”—Ellah Allfrey, NPR

“A masterful novel by a gifted writer lays bare the secrets and scars of past conflicts . . . [Forna] reveals her story at a pace of measured suspense until it reads like a slow-burn thriller. Her prose quietly grips us by the throat and then tightens its hold. It is storytelling at its most taut.” —Arifa Akbar, The Independent (UK)

“If . . . The Memory of Love, set in Africa, confirmed Forna’s flair for writing about war and its aftermath, The Hired Man seals her reputation as arguably the best writer of fiction in this field. . . . This is a novel to be passed on judiciously, like a special gift.”—Jackie Annesley, London Evening Standard

“[Forna] has a terrific ability to evoke the poisonous atmosphere of culpability and denial from which civil conflicts emerge. . . . [and] the atmosphere of festering tension in which perpetrators of the most grotesque acts of violence continue to live side by side. . . . The Hired Man triumphantly proves that the story need not always remain the same.”—Alfred Hickling, The Guardian (UK)

“Forna . . . has created a convincing narrator in Duro. . . . His voice is one of the novel’s key pleasures—unpretentious and perceptive, tolerant, brooding and sometimes surprising. . . . Every sentence shimmers with possible depths. . . . The plotting is subtle, the suspense maddening, the set-ups undetectable, the character work masterful—and Forna’s surprises go off like time bombs. This is literature with a punch.” —Nick DiMartino, Shelf Awareness

“A satisfying novel of truth and forgetting . . . quietly gripping . . . Duro’s matter-of-fact narration adds to the unease, defying the reader to separate benign local color from hints about unspeakable acts..”—Adrian Turpin, Financial Times (UK)

“A persuasive tale of silent secrets. Dark and troubling . . . it is a story of slow, incremental animosities that find full expression once war descends on the village. . . . Forna’s storytelling is beautifully paced, chilly and brooding in tone, and powerfully gripping. . . . A low-key but sophisticated portrait of history—and evil—at a local level.”—Kirkus (starred review)

“For fans of Monica Ali and Kiran Desai’s writing . . . Perhaps [Forna’s] finest literary effort yet. . . . Forna's light—and, at times, darkly comedic—touch buoys even the heaviest of subjects.”—Harper’s Bazaar (UK)

“Beautifully precise style . . . An ingenious examination of the kind of ghosts that those with no experience of civil war are unable to see.”—Frances Perraudin, The Observer (UK)

“Moving . . . Forna does an exquisite job of contrasting her leads’ perspectives. . . . This is a powerful exploration of the impact that violence has on those who suffer it and those who inflict it.”—Publishers Weekly (Pick of the Week)

“A writer of extreme gifts. . . . Forna is brilliant.”—Hannah McGill, The Scotsman (UK)

“Absorbing . . . [Forna] subtly illuminat[es] the prolonged aftereffects of all wars. . . . Forna’s decision to write from the perspective of a Croatian man is risky, but Duro is exceedingly convincing: melancholy, not maudlin; stoical, not hard-boiled.”—Kenneth Champeon, Book Page

“Forna writes sensitively about the power of a history that is both terrible and banal. . . . Duro’s voice carries the narrative with a solidity and complexity that is very satisfying.”—Helen Dunmore, The Times (London)

“Set in Croatia, this mesmerizing novel examines the aftermath of war and genocide. . . . What’s most interesting about this story is its portrayal of how those who survive atrocities must learn how to continue to live together. . . . Highly recommended and likely to find appreciation among fans of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, another tale of friendship and betrayal.”—Evelyn Beck, Library Journal (starred review)

“Aminatta Forna is one of those rare writers who can create stillness and silence on the page. . . . Tentatively, fragment by fragment, the present is peeled back to expose the wounds of the past. Each revelation, however great, seems intimate on this small stage and Forna modulates the growing suspense with exquisite skill. . . . Forna wisely resists explaining the war in this region once known as the Serbian Republic of Krajina. Rather she conveys its ghastly texture and rhythms, how it feels. Yet this tightly compressed novel, crisscrossed by scars, is above all beautiful, reminiscent in its mesmerizing clarity of William Trevor’s fiction or Per Petterson’s.”—Anna Mundow, Barnes&Noble Review

“Powerful . . . The first few chapters are picturesque, even comic at times. . . . But the real story is ticking beneath. . . . The pacing of this novel is stunning. After an edgy beginning, it blooms into joyousness halfway through when the mosaic is restored, and then the cruelty begins to flow. . . . But in the end, The Hired Man is not a simple story of revenge. It is subtler and harder; it is about the power of not exacting revenge.”—Joy Lo Dico, The Independent (UK)

“Set in and around a small Croatian village, Forna’s accomplished and intricate novel explores the effects of war and the endurance and significance of memory. . . . As the house’s restoration becomes entwined with Duro’s recollections of his past, Forna leads readers to the gradual, raw revelation of a town devastated by war and haunted by the aftermath.”— Leah Strauss, Booklist

“Fans of The English Patient will love this haunting, memorable book.”—Red (UK)

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
English tourists visiting a small Croatian village unwittingly stir up memories of the past, a legacy of horror which still holds the locals in its thrall, in a persuasive tale of silent secrets. Dark and troubling, this novel by award-winning British-based writer Forna (The Memory of Love, 2011, etc.) returns to the territory of tragedy and aftermath, this time in Europe, where the beauties of a summer cottage in Gost, a village in Croatia, are undercut by recollections of the terrible events that mar the community's conscience. Narrated by the titular hired man, Duro, who offers to help the visitors repair the blue house they have bought as a holiday home, it is a story of slow, incremental animosities that find full expression once war descends on the village. Duro, a taciturn loner, once had a happy life in Gost, complete with a family, friends and a secret romance with Anka. But the couple's betrayal forces Duro to leave and, on his return, 10 years later, Anka is married to another. Restoring the blue house, where Anka lived, reminds Duro of the somber events he has both witnessed and perpetrated, as well as evoking intense responses from other villagers. Forna's storytelling is beautifully paced, chilly and brooding in tone, and powerfully gripping. The miasma of foreboding hanging over the book is finally explained in a haunting conclusion that takes the long view. A low-key but sophisticated portrait of history--and evil--at a local level.
Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Set in Croatia, this mesmerizing novel examines the aftermath of war and genocide. Protagonist Duro Kolak takes a job making repairs to a house bought by a British family as an investment in the appropriately named town of Gost. These outsiders are clueless about the horrors of the town's past, unable to see beyond its pastoral beauty and income potential. As a mosaic is uncovered at the house, Duro must deal with his memories of a time when friends betrayed one another and loved ones disappeared. What's most interesting about this story is its portrayal of how those who survive atrocities must learn how to continue to live together. Duro manages by living alone with his dogs and exacting petty revenge when possible. The character's loneliness and his sense of loss are palpable, and his relationship with his pets is moving. Forna's own father, a political dissident, was executed in Sierra Leone when she was a child. The loss hovers over her writings and is the subject of her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water. VERDICT Highly recommended and likely to find appreciation among fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, another tale of friendship and betrayal. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802121912
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/01/2013
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
668,910
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author


Aminatta Forna is the author of two previous novels, Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love, and The Devil That Danced on the Water, a memoir of her activist father, and her country, Sierra Leone. She lives in London.

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The Hired Man 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna is a haunting tale that you know from the first few pages is a book you want to read slowly so as to savor it. Set in the small town of Gost, Croatia, this relatively quick read is a story about the sorrows and tragedies of the aftermath of war and the power of perseverance in spite of it all. When an English family buys a rundown home in Duro Kolak’s hometown, the local man is compelled to offer them his handyman services. As he gets to know the family, including the wistful mom, surly teenage son, and bright and inquisitive daughter, Duro finds himself remembering the past in vivid detail. Told through alternating time frames – present day and Duro’s flashbacks -The Hired Man takes the reader on a journey through Duro’s life and the complex relationships between those in a small, war-torn town in the process of recovering, where one action can reverberate for decades to come. Because it’s a small town, it comes as no surprise that Duro knows about the house he is sprucing up,  but as the story unravels the reader is brought into a world that is as interconnected as it is fragile. It is during this unraveling  that the reader learns that Duro’s actions, although kind, are not necessarily altruistic. The Hired Man is a book meant to be absorbed, rather than just read, and with the turning of each page, a new layer is revealed. The only thing about the book that I found difficult was that the flashbacks aren’t clearly delineated in the ebook version and, although it’s fairly easy to pick up on the changes, it caused some confusion in the beginning. Other than that, it’s a great and solemn read about personal sorrow, regret, and how these emotions are impacted by living in a town in the midst of recovery. - Allison @ The Book Wheel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago