Winner of the 2007 Hélène du Coudray Undergraduate Novel Prize. In the first years of this century, three young people - Anne-Marie, David and Mohammed - try to find their place in a changed world of identity politics, religion, conflict and betrayal. Set against the background first of student life and then Palestine, Israel, and the Balkans, this beautifully written, original and powerful debut novel draws on the poetry of the Song of Songs and the Persian poet Rumi, and asks searching questions about the nature of betrayal, loyalty, and identity, both in our personal lives and in today's troubled world.
|Publisher:||Arcadia Books Ltd|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Heather McRobie (b. 1985) is a British-Australian novelist and journalist. Her first novel, Psalm 119, was published shortly after she graduated and won the Helene du Coudray prize when she was 23 years old. Since then she has worked as a freelance journalist for The Guardian, New Statesman, Foreign Policy, Globe and Mail and others, living and working in Jordan, Bosnia, Germany, Canada and Egypt. Her first non-fiction book, Literary Freedom, was published in 2013. She is completing a PhD on the 2011 Egyptian revolution at Oxford University and works as an editor at openDemocracy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Somebody needed to write this book -- a book that wasn't about toughened soldiers, or about noble suffering Iraqis, or about the nefarious political world that caused the 'war on terror' -- but the novel that quite simply charts what it is like, and has been like, to be a young person caught up in the world since the millennium, young people who attended anti-war marches, were taught post-colonialism at university, went to volunteer in Palestine, all the while trying to forge their first relationships and find their place in such a world. And, thankfully, McRobie's first novel does all a book like this should do. It slays holy cows of the last generation, is funny, brave and irreverent, and is full of youthful passion even as McRobie turns a critical eye to her own condition as a young political idealist - the characters love to stand at funerals in suits after a compadre has been shot 'and they loved that their suits didn't fit them: a full-deck, a legion, a whole armada - the strong ships burdened with manoeuvring this sorrow. Of course they loved to stand there when they looked like that.' They search out the 'scent of authenticity' by 'mining precious pieces out of other people's memory-lands' in a whirlwind of war- zones they barely understand. But McRobie *understands* that her generation of volunteer-workers and activists don't understand, and that's what makes the book so poignant: the final, stark warning of the last chapter is that 'after all attempts, this still is not your truth, and it never will be.' Psalm 119 vividly draws the inability of young westerners to connect with the wider, violent modern world - the novel *connects* with their lack of connectedness, elevating what would otherwise have been a clever, postmodern novel to something much more wise, self-aware and human. Psalm 119 also seems to have made its peace with its own youthfulness, in the same way as Keith Gessen's recent novel makes its peace with the endnotes of youth. McRobie reads the world as something that carries vital messages for the young - the city of Tel Aviv 'loves' a character as 'fiercely' as she loves it, silently telling her to 'build your city on joy.' Only someone who grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s could have written a novel so passionate about this particular subject-matter, about the era McRobie must have been formed by - even the occasional adolescent clumsiness of the Samson & Delilah sections are a delight, in that sense, because relationships *matter* here, in a way that isn't abstract or distanced. Every love affair is 'a lonely voyage up to a universal sigh, or else is like the little cases, brought to courts, that turn into Law.' Ironically, I imagine Heather McRobie has by now been instructed to tone down the bright urgency of her writing in favor of the 'knowing', detached writing of her slightly older peers, in order to be taken seriously as an adult writer. If she does, it will be a real shame. Few can combine gravity, humor and joy the way Psalm 119 does.