Book review: Shatila Stories + competition

By Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbawi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud, Hiba Mareb
Translated from the Arabic by Nashwa Gowanlock
Published by Peirene Press

Synopsis: Adam and his family flee Syria and arrive at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Conditions in this overcrowded Palestinian camp are tough, and violence defines many of the relationships: a father fights to save his daughter, a gang leader plots to expand his influence, and drugs break up a family. Adam struggles to make sense of his refugee experience, but then he meets Shatha and starts to view the camp through her eyes.

How did this book end up in my hands? I was offered a copy of this book in exchange of my honest opinion by one of Peirene Press’s talented publishing assistants and I didn’t hesitate to accept the opportunity to read this novel written by Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Was it a page-turner? In line with all the other work published by Peirene Press, this book is under 200 pages and is easily read in one sitting. I probably would have struggled to put it down even if it had been bulkier though. There is something compelling about Shatila Stories.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? The synopsis does its best at describing what happens in the book but there is so much depth and so much sentiment among these pages that no words can describe. Expectations have been met and exceeded in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] My heart felt swollen and battered by the time I reached the last paragraph. What a rollercoaster. I more than loved it.

Three words to describe it. Heartrending. Hopeful. Topical. 

Do I like the cover? Gorgeous, like the black and white photographs inside the book.

Have I read any other books by the same author? This is a collaborative writing project that was born out of a workshop organised by Peirene Press at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. It is a unique piece of literature.

Will I be recommending this book? I think everybody should read this book. No exceptions. Read it, reread it and gift it.

Anything else? Yes! The publisher has kindly offered one copy of Shatila Stories to go to a lucky reader! All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet the competition post by 19/08. UK only. All comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Good luck!

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