An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Published by Grove Press
From the publisher:
Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, divorced, and childless, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated have never been read—by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, “the three witches,” discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue.
In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Insightful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.
I have very little to say about this one because, while it wasn’t terrible, I simply did not enjoy it and have a difficult time understanding what other people may have enjoyed about it. The main character is alone, lonely, and frankly, rather boring. It’s not that she is a single woman with no friends or family to speak of that is boring, it’s the things she spends time thinking about and doing that were boring to me. I just couldn’t care about her, couldn’t care about anything that she cared about or was interested in or shared with the reader, so I couldn’t appreciate the reading experience.
What I can say is that the writing is quite beautiful, so readers who can forego plot and an interesting character for quality writing may enjoy the novel. And she does talk a bit about the Lebanese Civil War so there is some history there as well. But overall, the book really went nowhere and the climax that the publisher’s summary hints at was nothing to write home about. I kept reading the book, thinking and hoping that something exciting would happen eventually, and that simply wasn’t the case.
Meh. Hopefully others enjoyed An Unnecessary Woman more than I did.