Blog Tour/Book Review: The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan, which was published on 4th April 2019 by World Editions, in a new translation by Rachel McNicholl and Sinéad Crowe.  You can read my review below.

Thanks to Julia at Ruth Killick Publicity for inviting me to participate in the tour and to World Editions for my advance review copy of The Storyteller.  The blog tour kicked off yesterday with an extract from the book hosted by Liz Loves Books.

Watch Pierre Jarawan talking about the book here.

The_Storyteller_CoverAbout the Book

Samir leaves the safety and comfort of his family’s adopted home in Germany for volatile Beirut in an attempt to find his missing father. His only clues are an old photo and the bedtime stories his father used to tell him.

The Storyteller follows Samir’s search for Brahim, the father whose heart was always yearning for his homeland, Lebanon. In this moving and gripping novel about family secrets, love, and friendship, Pierre Jarawan does for Lebanon what Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan. He pulls away the curtain of grim facts and figures to reveal the intimate story of an exiled family torn apart by civil war and guilt. In this rich and skilful account, Jarawan proves that he too is a masterful storyteller

Format: Paperback, ebook (468 pp.)    Publisher: World Editions
Published: 4th April 2019   Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ Waterstones | (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Storyteller on Goodreads

My Review

Opening with a dramatic and intriguing prologue, the book is structured in three parts, moving between Lebanon and Germany over a period of more than thirty years.   In the first part, the reader experiences firsthand the close relationship between Samir and his father, a man who charmed everyone he met by never forgetting a name, being the life and soul of any party and, most importantly, telling Samir the most wonderful bedtime stories.  Along the way, we learn of the family’s flight from war-torn Beirut to Germany in the 1980s along with many other refugees.

However, one night everything changes seemingly as a result of something as simple as a photograph.  It leads to Samir’s father’s disappearance, an event which will shape the course of Samir’s life.   The dramatic impact of this on young Samir, his mother and sister, Alina, is convincingly conveyed.  Eventually, Samir travels to Beirut in search of his father because it seems to be the only way he can move on in his life and settle down to a career and relationship. What he learns will involve long-buried secrets, the complex political history of Lebanon (there’s a useful short history at the end of the book) and explore questions of national identity.  And Samir comes to realise that perhaps his father’s imaginative and colourful stories hid the truth all along if he’d only known it.

The theme of storytelling pervades the book, whether that’s something as innocent as bedtime stories or the thrill of telling a story to an appreciative audience.  Or the stories that a photograph can reveal, the contested stories a nation tells about itself or the stories of the hidden that don’t get told.

I loved the descriptive writing in the book, skilfully preserved by translators, Rachel McNicholl and Sinéad Crowe.  Like this about young Samir’s new home: ‘The smell of fresh paint drifted like a cheerful tune through the rooms.’  The book contains fascinating information about Lebanon: its culture, food, complex politics, turbulent recent history and, of course, the famed cedars of Lebanon.  In fact, you could say that, at its heart, The Storyteller is a love letter to Lebanon as much as a story about a young man’s search for the truth about his father.  On either count, The Storyteller is a fascinating, intriguing and beautifully written book that I can highly recommend.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, World Editions.

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In three words: Compelling, multi-layered, thought-provoking

Try something similar…The Glass Diplomat by S.R. Wilsher (read my review here)

Pierre_Jarawan_Author_PicAbout the Author

Pierre Jarawan was born in 1985 to a Lebanese father and a German mother and moved to Germany with his family at the age of three. Inspired by his father’s imaginative bedtime stories, he started writing at the age of thirteen. He has won international prizes as a slam poet, and in 2016 was named Literature Star of the Year by the daily newspaper Abendzeitung. Jarawan received a literary scholarship from the City of Munich (the Bayerischer Kunstförderpreis) for The Storyteller, which went on to become a bestseller and booksellers’ favourite in Germany and the Netherlands. (Photo credit: Marvin Ruppert)

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