Title: In Praise of Hatred
Author: Khaled Khalifa
Source: from publisher via LibraryThing
Review Summary: Although this was beautifully written and gave me some insight into life in Syria, it was mostly confusing and disjointed.
Set in the Syria in the 1980’s, In Praise of Hatred tells the story of a young muslim woman whose name is never given. Facing scorn from her secular classmates and the conflicting views of her variably conservative family members, she takes refuge in hatred for those who are different from her. As her uncle’s become involved in trying to overthrow the regime, she herself becomes increasingly radical in her views. Alongside her coming of age story, we also learn about the many dramatic romantic liaisons and fascinating histories of her family members.
Like Reading Lolita in Tehran, this turned out to be a very literary book. Although the author sometimes compared feelings to physical objects in ways that didn’t resonate with me, there was no denying that his writing style was beautiful. On a sentence level, this was very well written. I wasn’t as impressed by the plot. The author often digresses to talk about the main character’s family members. These bits were some of the easiest to follow and some of the most exciting parts of the book. However, I didn’t like how they broke up the main story. Each time we returned to the main character’s perspective, I felt as though she fluctuated between hatred and more compassionate, accepting feelings. I didn’t understand what influenced her feelings or how she ended up feeling the way she did very well at all.
The last section of the book worked a bit better for me. It almost exclusively followed the main character and I could at least logically see how her emotions were changing. We still don’t get much in the way of her thoughts though, so I never felt a true connection. This was by far my favorite part of the book, because I enjoyed seeing the main character change, but I liked some of the earlier parts as well. The author began with a helpful little history lesson which at least gave me somewhere to start googling so that I could understand the events taking place in the book. The snippets of the different character’s lives all gave me interesting glimpses of what life was like in Syria in the 1980’s. Part of me feels like the problem might be me not the book. Perhaps if I read more slowly, more thoughtfully, I might find some meaning there I missed? I’m not sure. As is, I enjoyed the factual, educational parts of the book, but the feelings meant to be conveyed escaped me.