Bitter Orange Tree
Translated by Marilyn Booth
Longlisted for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award
An extraordinary novel from a Man Booker International Prize-winning author that follows one young Omani woman as she builds a life for herself in Britain and reflects on the relationships that have made her from a “remarkable” writer who has “constructed her own novelistic form” (James Wood, The New Yorker).
‘Alharthi makes lyrical shifts between past and present, memory and folklore, oneiric surrealism and grimy realism.’ Guardian
[A] stirring tale of a woman who battles every social and religious constraint. The juxtaposition with the narrator’s reflections on modern life and the speed of change is brilliantly judged in Marilyn Booth’s agile translation from Arabic.’ The Observer
Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can’t help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Aamir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhour left the Arabian Peninsula.
As the historical narrative of Bint Aamir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhour’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips, and dreams mingle with memories.
The eagerly awaited new novel by the winner of the Man Booker International Prize, Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman’s attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.
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