The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Many Wonderful Writers!

TheDjinnFallsInLove
Click here to order from Waterstones

We all know of the Djinn, immortal beings can grant wishes but epitomise the moral of being careful what you wish for as your wish may have unforeseen consequences. This collection of tales bring us stories of Djinn in many parts of the world in the past, the present and the future. They are everywhere. Outside your back garden, on street corners, in the mosque, behind the wheel of a taxi, on mars, surrounding you on stage. Sometimes the divide between them and us is paper thin, their humanity more painful than our own, sometimes their omnipotence allows us to believe they are miles from us instead.

There are stories here from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers. Honestly when it comes to the quality of the writing you’ll be hard-pressed to know which is a breakthrough author and which has won awards. The standard is consistently high. The cultural diversity of the authors should be praised to with writers from a large variety of backgrounds, reading this is likely to lead you to discovering at least a couple of new favourite authors.

That being said there were of course stories I preferred. And part of the joy of a short story collection is that you can flick over stories that aren’t right for you at the moment without any guilt! You can’t really skip chapters in novels in the same way.

For me the ones that didn’t appeal were the futuristic ones. I think that’s a failing on my part though, or on my mood or expectations. When it comes to Djinn I want to read about magic, glamour not a grey cargo hold. I may revisit those stories in the future though when I’m feeling more open minded! If you’ve read them and think I’m an idiot for skipping them don’t hesitate to tell me!

My favourite stories were Kamila Shamsie’s “The Congregation”, the first story in the collection and a heart-achingly beautiful tale of a young boy finding his brother. Neil Gaiman’s “Somewhere in America”, a stand-alone extract from American Gods. Claire North’s contribution is the most reminiscent of 1001 nights so of course I loved it. But I was stopped in my tracks by Amal El-Mohtar’s prose-poem “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” which reminded me immensely of The Book of The Dead – one of my favourite books ever. Kirsty Logan’s “The Spite House” is really clever yet pulses with heart and anxiety. And Sophia Al-Maria’s “The Righteous Guide of Arabsat” is a vibrant, authentic and eventually scary look at a man’s fear of female sexuality.

Pick it up, rub it, and make a wish.

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Vultures by Chinua Achebe

It’s taken me many years to fully appeciate poetry. For a long time it’s always seemed slightly out of my reach: hidden meanings lost inside elegant language that I couldn’t decipher; that my IQ or levels of sophistication weren’t enough to really understand poetry. Years of perseverance have changed my mind, and I have discovered the poems of TS Elliot, EE Cummings, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy and seen how poetry can reach in and grab the soul. But I will never forget the first poem that I fell in love with.

img_1543I was sitting in a GCSE English class, anthology open, divided into groups to discuss the meaning behind the poem we had been allocated. Our group had been given ‘Vultures’ By Chinua Achebe. He was an author and poet I had never heard of before (although at 15 there were a lot of gaps in my literary knowledge). He had written Things Fall Apart 40 years before my GCSE year, and Vultures, which appeared in the anthology, Beware, Soul Brother, 13 years after that, but this was my first encounter with his work.

For those of you who haven’t read this poem, I urge you to. It is about the boundaries between good and evil, how often these things are not simple black and white, but varying shades of grey. How even the most evil characters have the capacity for love inside of them.

Achebe talks of the vulture, his grotesque appearance and behaviour.
his smooth
bashed in head, a pebble
on a stem rooted in
a dump of gross feathers.”
“Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen
corpse in a water- logged
trench and ate the
things in its bowel.
Yet, the vulture’s feathers are “inclined affectionately” towards that of its mate.

img_1544The language is so strong, from the description of the vultures themselves to the idea of love tidying up a corner of a charnel house and falling asleep and the “fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously” to the hairy nostrils of the Commandant at Belsen. It is dark, both in subject matter and in style, with the “greyness and drizzle of one despondent dawn” being almost pathetic fallacy, the personification of the themes of the poem.

It ends with the eternal battle between optimist and pessimist: do we celebrate because there is love inside all of us, no matter how small, or do we despair, because love can be overwhelmed so easily by hate. A question which resonates as much in our modern society as it did in Nigeria in the 70’s.

Vultures

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Ugly People Beautiful Hearts by Marlen Komar

25168753I’ve always struggled with poetry. I see it as some higher art form which I’m not really intelligent enough to understand. When I “get” a poem, I love it and feel a sense of achievement. But too often I sit staring at the page, wondering if there was something I missed. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with this anthology.

In her collection, Marlen Komar writes about life and love. She sees beauty in the things people might take for granted, like the way the curtains catch on the breeze on a spring morning, the small moments of happiness. She writes about the stars and the night sky: they are the lines on her lover’s hand, a riddle to be unpicked. Some of the most beautiful poems though are about loss and hurt, how sometimes when the memories and the pain go hand in hand, to live without them would be even more painful. One of my favourite poems When Ever Runs Out considers what happens when love doesn’t last for the forever that was promised:
We’ve reached the end of endless and moved onto the dark space that’s just past the horizon. With tired eyes we’re now beyond the spot where the sky meets the sea and there’s nothing magic behind the curtain. The stars are just held up by strings that creek and groan as they sway on their heavy ropes, rocked by the quiet breezes that follow the words was, was, was. The night sky is just a crudely painted layer of black and, up this close, I’m not even sure what the lullaby is about anymore. The eddies are thick with dust and abandon. My hair turns white and my lungs burn as they breathe in their history.

That’s how things are when we said forever and forever has left us behind.”

The meaning of the poems themselves are accessible, conjuring emotions that are easily relatable which means you aren’t pulled out of the moment. Have Courage, My Love talks of how life’s disappointments and hurt are the experiences of being alive:
Life breaks at you. It tears at you, kicks you down, and every time, at the end of every round,
It reaches down and, with conviction, says
get up.

This is a book to dip in and out of. Being someone who reads prose more than poetry, I tried to read it like a book. This makes the themes slightly repetitive. But by giving myself more time between readings, I came to appreciate individual poems more and enjoyed the lyrical nature of the writing as well as the beauty of some of the lines.
It was six o’clock and the sun started to fade, its rays slowly melting like thick wax on the sidewalk, turning everything into a wet gold.
4 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.