Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A week of Orange Wednesdays: The secret son (Lalami)

The secret son was the third book that I picked off the Orange longlist this year that I hadn't already read; it had a lot to live up to after This is how and Hearts and minds, and although it was an interesting read, which whilst I enjoyed, I wasn't gripped in the same way that I had been by the previous two.

The secret son tells the story of Yousseff, a poor but intelligent college student, living with his mother in the slums of Casablanca in Morocco. He had always been told that his father, a teacher, had been killed in a tragic accident, but one day he discovers that his father was in fact a rich businessman, for whom his mother worked, and who is very much alive. Yousseff seeks him out, and they establish a relationship, Yousseff becoming in effect . Although his mother warns him against it, Yousseff takes advantage of his father's money, moving into a city-centre apartment and gaining work in his business. Essentially Yousseff has the opportunity to recreate his identity. But his father's family could not accept him, and after they find out about Yousseff's existence it is only a matter of time before his world is changed as dramatically again.

Lalami has a beautiful writing style and describes the slums and scenery of Morocco with wonderful detail. I think that this was what I liked most about the book - the opportunity to read about an unfamiliar culture and environment. Again this takes me back to what I like so much about the Orange prize - the fact that reading from the list transports me to worlds that I wouldn't necessarily normally read about.

The author, Lalami, by the way has an interesting blog which is worth taking a look at - she writes about her writing, and her work.


  1. Sounds very interesting - when is the story set? Your comments about how the author sets up the cultural backdrop is very enticing I must say!


  2. Yes, I felt similarly. A lot of things done very well - places and relationships in particular - but the sum of the parts was a good book and not a great one.

  3. Great review. I have this book on my to read list, and I look forward to reading it. I'm glad to hear it will be worth the read.


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