Friday, September 29, 2006 at 12:23 PM BST
It seems perfect that I read this straight after Carry Me Down. The parallels between the two novels are striking. Both present a child trying to uncover the truths of the adult world. Both involve parents withholding information. Both feature a boy who tends to climb into bed with his mother in the middle of the night. We see the same bonds between parent and child - the love, dependency, truth, lies, protection and rejection.
They are similar but very different - both in their setting and their telling. In the Country of Men has a domestic setting, but one that appears exotic and dangerous - here the deceptions are political not playground. Such as the pink flowers that flash up on the screen to blot out the worst parts of the televised interrogations.
‘Nationalism is as thin as a thread, perhaps that’s why many feel it must be anxiously guarded.’
The narrator speaks with a wordy, descriptive tone - undeniably beautiful but inconsistent with a child narrator. We soon realise this voice does not come first hand from a child, but an adult looking back. Perhaps this is necessary to explain the complexities of a situation that a child wouldn’t grasp, but I wonder if I would have preferred the narration to stay purely with the realm of a childs understanding.
‘The moments before we cry the face tries to fold away, hide itself from the world.’
Maybe it took me reading Hisham Matar to know that I prefer the Hyland novel. The same amount happens in both stories - in different places, but to a different scale purely because this novel uses more words, and views through eyes that see more - but for that reason it reads as less to me.
‘Grief loves the hollow, all it wants is to hear its own echo.’
I also wonder if In the Country of Men stands a chance of winning the Booker due to its political timeliness? I hope not for that reason alone.