Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: "An Unnecessary Woman" by Rabih Alameddine

I don't remember how I heard about this book, but I'm so glad I did! Our story is about Aaliya, a divorced, childless, 70-odd year old woman living by herself in Beirut. To say that she lives a solitary life would be an understatement. She lives in her apartment, surrounded by books (sound familiar anyone?!), but she doesn't just read, she translates. She carefully selects a book to translate, and it usually takes about a year. When she finishes, she reads it completely through, and then lovingly packs it in a crate, not expecting anyone to see it. She figures there's no market for most of these books, and besides, she basically does it for herself. It gives her a chance to really savor language.

We learn about her past life too. Why things didn't work out with her husband, her best friend and her lieutenant, the young man who walked into her life and after disappearing came back in a big way, and the bookstore that she worked at for many years.

This is a book lovers book. She talks about many different authors and their works. I didn't know some (cough cough most) of the obscurere references but it's kind of grand just to hear someone talk about books in such a beautiful and loving way. The author's writing style is very enjoyable and almost melodic in tone.She also talks about how a soldier pooped on her floor during the war. The talk about Beirut during the war and the general hardship of her life kept the book from being too "pie in the sky" for me.

This book would have been a great diversity/All Lady July read! But it will be great any time of year.I give this book 3.75 stars out of 5! (Yes I said I wouldn't do decimals, but look at that I'm a rule breaker).



  1. This sounds really interesting. I just read a book about translation (Is that a Fish in Your Ear?) and am reading a translated book (Anna Karenina) so the topic is on my mind.

    1. Is That a Fish in Your Ear is a great title! It was a really good book, and I'd recommend it if you wanted to keep with your translation theme, or even if you didn't :)


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