4 out of 4 stars
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Gates of Tangier is the third book of The Tétouan Trilogy, a historical fiction novel that explores the sufferings and ordeals that Jews have endured for centuries. The protagonists are five siblings of the Benzimra family from Tétouan. The story begins when a lawyer finishes reading the will of the protagonists’ father, who put his children a condition to receive the inheritance: the siblings must find their half-brother born from a Muslim woman around 30 years ago.
This clause puts the protagonists on a journey back to the village where they came from, and it forces them to confront and assume their identity and heritage as Jews, and also to come to terms with their own share of pain and suffering in life.
Even though the protagonists travel from different cities to meet at a Spanish airport and continue the journey to Tétouan, most of the plot takes place in the conversations among the characters, or in their interior monologues. These inner dialogues are powerful and portray the conflicts and the emotions that each sibling goes through. The author creates a multi first person narration technique which allows the reader to see the conflict from each sibling's perspective, so the reader can see a bigger picture of the story that none of the characters can see.
The plot develops as the characters speak and it unfolds at a steady pace on each chapter. In the third part of the story, the plot has a twist that gives the novel a new level of complexity and depth. All the loose ends are tied at the end, but the characters pose questions that may open up the story for a continuation.
What I enjoyed the most in this book were the poems between chapters, the author uses these to introduce other characters that the protagonists do not meet. A well achieved aspect in the novel is the creation of a common thread of pain and frustration in the characters about their lives and about being a Jew. All the characters mention this in their interior monologues, yet they all present it in different shades and manners, making them believable and relatable.
What I found difficult to follow were the dialogues between or among the protagonists, there was no clear indication about who was saying what, and I had to go back a couple of times to make sure that I knew who was speaking with whom.
The book contains only a few grammar mistakes that may distract from the story. I believe this is due to the translation process, I would still recommend a revision to make the narration flawless.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars: the story is engaging and the plot well-paced with a surprising twist, the characters talk about history as much as human emotions, making the reader feel for them. Despite the few mistakes, the narration technique is brilliant, especially in the use of poems to enrich the narration and to move the plot forward.
I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the history of Jews in the world. Readers interested in psychological novels may also find this book appealing.
Gates to Tangier
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