Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Beneath the Lion's Gaze, 2010, Maaza Mengiste ****

Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a political historical fiction novel set in Ethiopia between 1974 Ethiopian Revolution and the late eighties, I guess. It was difficult to tell because the novel ended in a sort of cliffhanger that I was asking myself if the family mentioned survived the war or not. Obviously, at the end of the novel it is understood that the war hasn't ended yet.

To begin with, in Ethiopia, before the year 1974, existed a Solomonic Monarchy, of which, Haile Selassie was the emperor. He was very well loved and admired far and away until famine struck the north-eastern part of his country in 1974 and did away with the lives of over two hundred thousand people. Meanwhile, the emperor  was enjoying an affluent life style in his prestigious palace, for this reason, his citizens rebelled against him. They were mad with grief, mainly students, they protested and his popularity fell to the ground. Consequently, the military, took advantage of the upheaval and overthrew him. Most of the Ethiopians, I believe, thought his arrest will put an end to the blatant social inequality and classism of that time. However, the worse was yet to come.
Next, military took over the country, backed up mainly by the Soviet and Cuban Communist who supplied them with ammunition to kill themselves. As was expected, Emperor Haile Selassie was imprisoned and later on murdered.
Inevitably, with the military rule came dictatorship and reign of terror. In fact, they declared death to counter-revolutionaries, murdered mercilessly and threw dead bodies to the hyenas. Moreover, to show a hint of compassion they made families pay the wasted bullet tax before they could collect the corpse of their loved ones and mourn for them. Henceforth, began a bloody war.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze narrates the terrifying ordeal of an Ethiopian family in the throes of a civil war with their life in dire straits. Evidently, in this novel, Maaza Mengiste was doing homage to the civil war victims.

Furthermore, reading this book helped me acquire a reasonable knowledge on the history of Imperial Ethiopia, of which, I knew nothing about, until now. I was also introduced to Mengiste Haile Mariam the military head of state during the war. What baffles me above all is that he is still alive and kicking with his household in Zimbabwe where he sought asylum, despite the fact he is suppose to be extradited to face his death sentence in his home country where he is accused of mass murder. As a matter of fact he authorised most of the massacre.

Finally, I wouldn't say this was a spellbound read; nonetheless, it is a skillful written debut novel I read with no trouble! Do not take notice of the book cover. As far as I am concerned, it does not do the novel justice. I recommend this book to adults and lovers of history and politics.

On a side note, this is one of the novels I suggested to the library. I am glad they bought it.

16 comments:

  1. Congratulations!!! You are the best!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not one for books but reviews like this might just be the bait. Nice one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Frank, thanks for coming over. I can assure you the novel is even more tempting. Thanks again.

      Delete
  3. Oh Mary,, this is an excellent review, one of your best so far. I never had any idea of how brutal Haile Selassie's reign was. Nor do I have an inkling of how terrible and inhuman the millitary rule was. Thank you so much for this insight into the histry of Ehtiopia.. This is certainly a must-read for me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Afua.. thats so kind of you. Thanks a lot. Actually, I had no idea of Ethiopia's history. All I knew about it was that it is a poverty stricken state, full stop. I am more than grateful to have learnt a bit more about this rich country.

      Delete
  4. I have to agree with Reading Pleasure this must be one of your best reviews so far. The story sounds classic. Typical African story. Rich nation with a dictator or leader or president living in luxury and lavish life style with the rest of his family and friends while the entire populace starves and live in poverty. Then there comes a revolution by the people aided and funded by a western nation who imposes its own select government after the incumbent is overthrown but instead of that resulting to liberation equality and equity in distribution of the nations wealth and resources,it brings more suffering to the nation. There is not much difference between this story and what happened to the Libyan people except that Libyans were not starving during Ghadaffi era but they sure are not any better since the NATO imposed government. When will Africa be truly liberated???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Kboy, the fact is that History always repeats itself, only if we could look back to history we would make different choices when we are on the horns of a dilemma.

      Delete
  5. Excellent review. I really hope I can find this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey there, thanks. I am sure it would be easy to find, the librarian ordered it from the USA.

      Delete
  6. Have read many reviews online. I hope to get to it one day. Thanks, mary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geosi, how were the other reviews you saw on line, did they like the book?

      Delete
  7. Nice review, Mary. The book looks like another good Civil War read. I don't know much about Ethiopia or the revolution, but something held my interest here: WASTED BULLET TAX. Sounds evil. Another instance of man's inhumanity to man. I'll definitely add the book to my TBR list on Goodreads.

    BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog earlier :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not know much about Ethiopia and its revolution until I stumbled upon this novel. You got it right another instance of man's inhumanity to man, and the man who could be held responsible for that inhumane act is under political asylum in Zimbabwe.

      Your blog is in my blog list, always looking forward to reading its contents.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  8. I'm taking your advice, Mary, and reading this one before The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears... I've just ordered it today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa,
      yes, it does give background story to the reason why Sepha left in The beautiful Things That Heaven bears and why he behaves the way he does. I'd like to know your opinion afterwards.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...