I absolutely loved this novel. One of those off-beat, smart, novels you don’t often come across these days. The author, Amara Lakhous, is an Algerian, living in Italy, writing in Italian. “Divorce Islamic Style” is his second novel. (His first was “Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator on the Piazza Vittorio” - a novel I definitely intend to read).
Told in alternating chapters between Christian Mazzari, aka “Issa”, a Sicilian court translator who speaks flawless Arabic is asked by the Italian Secret Service to pose as a recently arrived Tunisian immigrant to help flush out a terrorist cell in the Viale Marconi neighborhood of Rome. He ingratiates himself into the lives of the people of the neighborhood, playing his part to the hilt, blending in seamlessly; and “Sofia”, a young beautiful Egyptian woman who is married to a devout Muslim who is only one declaration away of a final divorce. Sofia struggles with tradition and her new Westernized surroundings, torn between her right to be free and to be the dutiful Muslim wife. These two story lines converge throughout the novel until the final scene which will leave you scratching your head, questioning the notion of what is real and what isn’t.
The title of the book plays on the old Italian film “Divorce Italian Style” and is referenced throughout, a sort of updated, Islamic version in some ways. Packed with information on Islamic culture and the detailed lives of immigrants living and struggling in their new surroundings, this novel will no doubt foster a better understanding about the times we are living in - where everything and everyone is not beyond suspicion and everything and everyone may not be what they seem. A truly great read and a young author to keep an eye out for.
Rating: * * * * *