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.
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About the Author
Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain and also spent periods of her childhood in Iran, Thailand and Zambia. She is the award-winning author of two novels, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones, and a memoir The Devil that Danced on the Water, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. She has also written short stories and essays as well as for radio and television and presented arts magazine and documentary programmes, and was recently appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Aminatta Forna lives in London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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