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The Hired Manby Aminatta Forna
Synopses & Reviews
A poignant story about friendship, betrayal, obsession and second chances. Bold, deeply moving and accomplished, [Fornas novel] confirms her place among the most talented writers in literature today." Commonwealth Writers Prize judges on The Memory of Love
Aminatta Forna, winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize and named one of Africa's most promising new writers by Vanity Fair, has been widely acclaimed for her novels of love, loss, and absolution set against the backdrop of her native, war-torn Sierra Leone. In her latest book, The Hired Man, she turns her keen eye for rich psychological portraiture and precise storytelling to a small town still coping with the aftermath of Croatia's war of independence. Narrated by a local man who is hired by a British family to fix up their recently acquired summer house in the town, The Hired Man deftly peels back the layers of the outwardly placid community to reveal its long-buried truths — secrets the hired man is keeping from the family about the town, the war, and the still-festering conflicts between the townspeople.
When an English family moves into the run-down blue house” in the small Croatian town of Gost, their neighbor, stoical forty-five-year-old Duro Kolak, is quick to offer his services for the renovation, and the young, attractive English matriarch, Laura, gratefully hires him for the summer. But as Duro sets about making improvements to the property, it becomes apparent that the blue house is almost too well-known to him, and the familys arrival soon becomes entwined with an onrush of old memories that reveal the true history of Gost and its enigmatic inhabitants: Duros childhood love, Anka Pavic, who has been missing since the end of the war; her sinister brother, Krešimir, once Duros closest friend and now his most despised enemy; and the lascivious Fabjan, owner of the local bar, whose nocturnal visits to spy on the blue house and its new English inhabitants become increasingly menacing. As Duro strives to shield Laura and her children from the townspeople's rising bitterness towards the English interlopers, he is drawn ever deeper into his wartime memories — probing into the complex web of relations that form Gost, and shedding light on his heart-rending personal history and his own fractured relationship with the town.
A masterful, nuanced tale, The Hired Man expertly examines the power of communal bonds, betrayals, and loss, the ravages of Croatian military history, and the limits of cultural exchange, of memory and, ultimately, of identity.
"[A] luminous tale of passion and betrayal." The New York Times Book Review
"[An] elegantly rendered novel of loss and rehabilitation [that] coalesces into an ambitious exploration of trauma and storytelling." San Francisco Chronicle
"The real pleasure of Fornas storytelling is in her scrutiny of her characters inner lives and her ability to connect their choices to the moral dilemmas of a traumatized society." The New Yorker
The new novel from the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, The Hired Man is a taut, powerful novel of a small town and its dark wartime secrets, unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders.
Aminatta Forna has established herself as one of our most perceptive and uncompromising chroniclers of war and the way it reverberates, sometimes imperceptibly, in the daily lives of those touched by it. With The Hired Man, she has delivered a tale of a Croatian village after the War of Independence, and a family of newcomers who expose its secrets.
Duro is off on a mornings hunt when he sees something one rarely does in Gost: a strange car. Later that day, he overhears its occupants, a British woman, Laura, and her two children, who have taken up residence in a house Duro knows well. He offers his assistance getting their water working again, and soon he is at the house every day, helping get it ready as their summer cottage, and serving as Laura's trusted confidant.
But the other residents of Gost are not as pleased to have the interlopers, and as Duro and Laura's daughter Grace uncover and begin to restore a mosaic in the front that has been plastered over, Duro must be increasingly creative to shield the family from the towns hostility, and his own past with the houses former occupants. As the inhabitants of Gost go about their days, working, striving to better themselves and their town, and arguing, the towns volatile truths whisper ever louder.
A masterpiece of storytelling haunted by lost love and a restrained menace, this novel recalls Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The Hired Man confirms Aminatta Forna as one of our most important writers.
About the Author
Aminatta Forna is the author of two novels, Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love, and The Devil That Danced on the Water, a memoir of her activist father, and her country, Sierra Leone. She lives in London.
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