Vacation Time

Tomorrow I fly to Heathrow for a month’s vacation. I’ll be back in Abu Dhabi on the 1st July. Between now and then:

  • My sister is flying in from Vancouver, where she now lives, to spend a week with me at my place in Highgate
  • I have tickets booked to see:
    • (With my sister) RainForest by Rambert Dance Company at the Barbican
    • (By myself) Othello at the National Theatre
    • (By myself) A Mad World My Masters at the RSC in Stratford
    • I shall be going to North Wales to visit friends I first met here in The Gulf

I’m really looking forward to it. And yet, I know I’ll miss The Gulf. There’s a politeness here that you don’t get any longer in Britain. Perhaps, if I went all the way home to Ontario, I might find it there—but Canada seems a long time ago and a long way away to me now.

When I talk about Akhlaq, people in the West are surprised, because what the West knows of Islam is distorted by biased reporting and film of faces distorted by rage and grief when someone close to them is killed. If I say that the commonest face of Islam is one of courtesy, people look at me in disbelief. And yet, so it is.

Muhammed said that religion is Akhlaq, and that Akhlaq is good conduct and morality. That not to be angry is Akhlaq. And, for people who live here, courtesy, good conduct and morality are what one encounters. I shall miss it when I’m not here. I shall be glad when I return.

I was pleased with this

Manic Readers reviewed my book, The BindingThe Binding Cover:

“The Binding by SF Hopkins is an enjoyable read. In the beginning I felt just Rodney and Melissa’s story. It had more substance. However, as the story went on I came around to Caroline and James. Still Rodney and Melissa were my favorites in this book. I like how the past and present intertwined with each other. There was good balance between the past and present. Readers who like historical romance stories with a happy ending and don’t mind some spice should check out this book.”

I like it! Thank you, Manic Readers

Zoë Ferraris

I read Zoë Ferraris in the “wrong” order—I started with her third book, Kingdom of Strangers, realised what I’d done and read Finding Nouf (also published as The Night Of The Mi’raj) and now I’m about to start on the middle one of the three—City of Veils.

Two months ago, I hadn’t heard of Zoë Ferraris. Now she’s in that small group of writers where I know I’m going to be watching for the next book and I know I’m going to buy it. She got into that group because she writes good, well constructed thrillers and because her characters are human and believable and she makes you care what happens to them. The added attraction, though, is that she writes about Jeddah. I spend a lot of time in Jeddah and Zoë Ferraris describes both the place and the society extremely well. She’s qualified to do so—she’s American, born in in Oklahoma in fact, but she was married to a Bedu from Jeddah who she met in the States and who took her back to Jeddah when their daughter was born.

I’ve seen comments by Arabs that she doesn’t really understand Jeddah society. Oh, yes, she does. She understands the basic decency of so many of the ordinary people and she understands how thoroughly they are supressed by the rich, the powerful and the devout. If you read her books, you’ll understand, too—and you’ll have a really enjoyable read into the bargain.

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

You can tell a good painting because the eyes follow you round the room. (If you’re not familiar with this piece of art theory, learn more about it here). Whatever your view of that idea, you can tell a good book by the way the characters come into your life as real people and won’t leave. Anais Hendricks, protagonist of The Panopticon, held me from the moment I opened the book and she never let go. When I was half way through and going to bed, I dreamed about her. When I was thinking about how to deal with something, I found myself wondering what Anais would do. This is a wonderful book, and for a first novel it’s one in a million. Anais is as unreliable a narrator as narrators get: she didn’t put the woman PC in a coma (or did she?); the blood on her clothes is from a squirrel (or is it?); she has no idea who her birth mother was (or does she?) Fagan is in complete control of her material from the first page to the last sentence. The ending had me in tears. I’m not going to say what the ending is, or whether the tears were happy or sad, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you when you read it. But read it you must.

%d bloggers like this: