A House by the Sea

by Sikeena Karmali
ISBN: 1550651765

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A Review of: A House By the Sea
by W.P. Kinsella

A House By the Sea may be the most complicated novel of the year. The story spans four continents with umpteen characters from a number of generations. Zahra, a thirtish young woman is the narrator. However, long dead relatives sometimes leap to the fore to tell their tales of immigration, alienation, and tragedy. Zahra, named for a grandmother she never knew, a woman family history relates as having drowned when she was 12 years old, longs to the title House by the Sea, a house located in Zanzibar, that has passed through a succession of owners, and is about all that remains unmarred of her family affairs, after all the secrecy and betrayals and subterfuge have been laid aside. Or so she thinks. The story leaps from present to past and back again. Zahra, who lives in London, visits her parents in Zanzibar, which triggers memories and tales of the lives of her parents, and grandparents on both sides of the family. When one has two Zahras, a Zeenat, plus Zoraine born Zubaida, Zureya born Zabeen, and Zera born Zarina, all in Zanzibar one comes close to throwing up their hands in utter confusion. But the story is ultimately worth the sorting out. Though Zahra the narrator is not terribly interesting and a little whiny, the colorful and eccentric characters in her family make up for what she lacks. Not only are characters not who they seem to us, but they are sometimes not who they think they are. The language is luscious, the descriptions so intense one can almost taste the food being served and take in the many exotic odors. Zahra's desire not only for a room of her own but for an entire house is what turns the wheels of this occasionally cumbersome but ultimately rewarding novel.

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