The President's Gardens
The President's Gardens is an epic novel about Saddam Hussein's Iraq, following the lives of three friends from the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War to the aftermath of the American invasion.Abdullah loses twenty years to Iranian captivity before returning to learn the terrible truth of his birth. Tariq, the son of the local Sheik, avoids the army, and becomes a man of power and influence, able to help his friends but always careful to keep his own interests closest to his heart. Ibrahim loses a foot in the first Gulf War and his wife to cancer before taking on a menial job in the gardens of one of the president's many palaces - a job whose responsibilities will escalate beyond his wildest imaginings.The multiple, multi-generational stories woven together in The President's Gardens are brought to life by a vivid and memorable cast of characters, and may remind the reader of The Kite-Runner, The Yellow Birds and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Epic in scope, moving, philosophical and true, it packs an ocean of wisdom in its 400 pages, and has much to impart about war and oppression, love and marriage, fathers and daughters, and what it means to live under a murderous, totalitarian regime.

The President's Gardens Details

TitleThe President's Gardens
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 20th, 2017
PublisherMaclehose Press
ISBN-139780857056771
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Favorites, War

The President's Gardens Review

  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    There is some beautiful highly effective writing in this fictitious tale of three friends living in a small village in Iraq. One of the friends will eventually spend twenty years in captivity as a POW in Iran, the other a scholar, while the third becomes the employee of a man who is ruthless ruler. They all come from a small village in Iraq and the book covers the time of the Iraq/Iran war as well as the Gulf War. The boys' lives as they grow into men contain secrets and through Al-Ramli's writi There is some beautiful highly effective writing in this fictitious tale of three friends living in a small village in Iraq. One of the friends will eventually spend twenty years in captivity as a POW in Iran, the other a scholar, while the third becomes the employee of a man who is ruthless ruler. They all come from a small village in Iraq and the book covers the time of the Iraq/Iran war as well as the Gulf War. The boys' lives as they grow into men contain secrets and through Al-Ramli's writing we gather an intimate portrait of their lives and the horrors that they faced.It is not by any long shot, although never mentioned, that the blood thirsty leader described in this novel was Saddam Hussein and as the story continues we learn the horrors of what existed within the President's Gardens. Beautiful as they were to look at, they contained abominations that were demonic and horrific. This book is shocking and horrific starting in the first scene where five heads are delivered to the village and from there we learn the story of the boys growing into men as we look into the past. It is a look inside a country written by an Iraqi man. It gave the reader another perspective other than that of the American view and the world press. This author did a fantastic job of telling a story of three boys living in a primitive village and what the wars and their upheaval meant to them. Often gruesome as it is, it allows the reader to understand what the culture and mind set was as Iraq was lead by a leader who was as vile as he was cunning. We were given an intimate portrait of friends, their lives, and the utter turmoil of what it was like growing up in in world set afire. Thank you to Muhsin Al-Ramli, Quercus MacLehose Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this most moving story.
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  • Roy
    January 1, 1970
    Graphic, traumatic and heart wrenching novel about growing up and being amongst the Gulf wars. Exquisitely written and amazing characterisation. Loved this.
  • Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
    January 1, 1970
    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary FlitsI found The President's Gardens to be a traumatic book to read both in its emotional impact and, especially, in its graphic depictions of wartime violence and the aftermath of torture. This is definitely not a novel for the squeamish or faint-hearted. That said, I feel rewarded by the read and appreciated the opportunity to discover an Iraqi perspective on the years of warfare instead of American and British views. Al-Ramli has a beautiful pr See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary FlitsI found The President's Gardens to be a traumatic book to read both in its emotional impact and, especially, in its graphic depictions of wartime violence and the aftermath of torture. This is definitely not a novel for the squeamish or faint-hearted. That said, I feel rewarded by the read and appreciated the opportunity to discover an Iraqi perspective on the years of warfare instead of American and British views. Al-Ramli has a beautiful prose style, meandering at times, with emphasis on character and motivation over action and pace. I was often swept up into deep philosophical discussions or portrayals of everyday village life or descriptions of the stunning eponymous gardens. These gentle scenes are then shattered on the turn of a page to reveal the true horrors of life under Saddam's regime or as a prisoner of war in Iran.It was this duality of life that I found most difficult initially to grasp and I think this is why it took me a good quarter of the book to really get into the story. The first scene, of nine heads delivered in banana crates, is incredibly powerful. Al-Ramli then drops down several gears to begin a story of childhood friendship and I struggled to reconcile these and other threads, attempting to do so too soon instead of allowing the writing to lead me. The President's Gardens is harrowing and shocking, but also surprisingly humble and understated. I liked that we get to know the characters well and I could always understand their reasons for particular actions and choices. Ordinary people living through extreme times makes for fascinating literature, particularly so in this novel as so much of the background is essentially true and so recent.
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  • Lee Peckover
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t know exactly where to start in trying to review this book. I am saddened to have finished it. I want to be able to go back to it and start again.This is an absolutely beautiful read from start to finish. I cannot think of another modern novel I can compare it to that would fully do justice to this book. The obvious comparison is probably ‘The Kite Runner’ and while I enjoyed that book a great deal, this is far superior in depth and beauty. The only other comparisons I can draw are with t I don’t know exactly where to start in trying to review this book. I am saddened to have finished it. I want to be able to go back to it and start again.This is an absolutely beautiful read from start to finish. I cannot think of another modern novel I can compare it to that would fully do justice to this book. The obvious comparison is probably ‘The Kite Runner’ and while I enjoyed that book a great deal, this is far superior in depth and beauty. The only other comparisons I can draw are with the folk stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ but even here it is a comparison that falls short because this is just altogether faster paced and more interesting to read.I cannot even begin to discuss the narrative as is here, it is too deep, too layered and has too many subtle touches to be reviewed without this turning into a full blown essay.I have not bought into characters and their heartbreak and struggles to the extent I did here in a very long time, if ever. I want to go buy the hard copy now just so that I can read it again, close the cover and stare at it for a while in awe.And…***SPOILER*** I have never been so horrified to be left with so many questions unanswered. I have read a review of this book which mentions it leaves without an ending, I expected an open ending, I did not anticipate a ‘to be continued’. I don’t know if I am relieved or devastated. Will I get to read more? I am willing to pay big to do so if it means I get to return to this stunningly crafted world though any wait will be agony. Just please don’t leave it open like this!This is a certifiable 5 star classic. Astonishing.(Based on ARC)
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    "I couldn't understand how it was possible for a human being to be that happy just because another human being is terrified and trembling in his grasp. Later, I realised that the cruelty of man is more barbaric than any other creature".A haunting, despairing, dark vision of Iraq from the war with Iran to more recent days. This is a book which opens with nine severed heads being found in a village and that beginning sets the grim and sombre tone of what is to follow. The only light we get is from "I couldn't understand how it was possible for a human being to be that happy just because another human being is terrified and trembling in his grasp. Later, I realised that the cruelty of man is more barbaric than any other creature".A haunting, despairing, dark vision of Iraq from the war with Iran to more recent days. This is a book which opens with nine severed heads being found in a village and that beginning sets the grim and sombre tone of what is to follow. The only light we get is from some of the characters who illuminate the world through their humaneness - Ibrahim, especially, whose simple act of remembrance and humanity reverberates throughout the novel: 'he drew maps of those open spaces, specifying locations by how far away they were, and in which direction, from that man-made presidential hill. He indicated the exact burial site of each corpse.'Al-Ramli uses the stories of the few here to illuminate the lives of many, and there is an epic, almost mythic feel to the book. It's worth knowing that this ends abruptly right in the middle of a story which is frustrating and unexpected - all the same, a 'heart of darkness' book whose own generosity of spirit is an antidote and small measure of balance to the darkness of the events and history recounted.Review from an ARC from Amazon Vine
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  • Mandy
    January 1, 1970
    From its attention-grabbing first paragraph right through to the end this is a powerful and often harrowing story, set in Iraq, of family, war, friendship and loyalty from before the Iran-Iraq war to the aftermath of the American invasion. Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim are close friends, born in the same village in 1959 and who in different times might have lived peacefully with their families. But political events overtake their lives and it is through their experiences that we learn of what thes From its attention-grabbing first paragraph right through to the end this is a powerful and often harrowing story, set in Iraq, of family, war, friendship and loyalty from before the Iran-Iraq war to the aftermath of the American invasion. Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim are close friends, born in the same village in 1959 and who in different times might have lived peacefully with their families. But political events overtake their lives and it is through their experiences that we learn of what these cataclysmic happenings did to ordinary people. It’s a multi-generational tale of a village, a country and what it was like under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The author chooses to never mention him by name, which somehow makes it all even more chilling, and the luxury of the President’s many palaces is shown in sharp contrast to village life. Al-Ramli doesn’t shy away from describing the horrors of the dictatorship, the killings, the torture and some of the scenes are truly disturbing. The book exposes the reader to the horrors of the invasion and the events leading up to it by personalising the familiar news stories allowing us to see Iraq from the inside rather than just watching it on our TV screens. It’s a dark and bleak book but one which I found compelling and often moving. From a purely literary point of view the text could perhaps have been tidied up a bit but the raw sincerity of the writing outweighed for me any shortcomings. The end is very abrupt but I believe a sequel is planned. Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand more about Iraq and Iraqis.
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  • Zeynep Şen
    January 1, 1970
    Brutal yet captivating, this novel stretches from the battlegrounds og the Gulf War to hellish prison camps, flower gardens that hide bone-chilling secrets and a distant village that might be the only "sanctuary" our four protagonists have. THE PRESIDENT'S GARDENS portray a terrifying beauty that's difficult if not impossible to imagine.
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  • Khaled
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this read and found my self unable to put it down. I love the descriptions of events in history which aren't usually documented from a person's view. i.e. highway of death during gulf war, Iraqi pow in Iran, etc... I really enjoyed the deep story created here and the characters and their interactions, which really made this story alive. The different places and times felt like real places, sufficiently described. The differences between those in power and those not is masterfully written I loved this read and found my self unable to put it down. I love the descriptions of events in history which aren't usually documented from a person's view. i.e. highway of death during gulf war, Iraqi pow in Iran, etc... I really enjoyed the deep story created here and the characters and their interactions, which really made this story alive. The different places and times felt like real places, sufficiently described. The differences between those in power and those not is masterfully written. Politics exist in this book, but it is carefully avoided to focus on the human element.
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  • Bethany
    January 1, 1970
    This book took me a long time to finish. When I first started it I was really into it but then somewhere along the lines I got distracted and then some time past and I had to start again. This happened about 3 or 4 times before I committed to finishing the novel. This novel can be confronting and there are sections that are really well written and enjoyable. Personally I did have trouble working out the connections between all the characters due to the time changes, which is probably why it took This book took me a long time to finish. When I first started it I was really into it but then somewhere along the lines I got distracted and then some time past and I had to start again. This happened about 3 or 4 times before I committed to finishing the novel. This novel can be confronting and there are sections that are really well written and enjoyable. Personally I did have trouble working out the connections between all the characters due to the time changes, which is probably why it took me so many goes to finish the book. Once I got to the later stages I did really enjoy the novel, however the end of the book was something that I found incredibly frustrating. So overall I suppose that indicates that I did enjoy the novel in some ways. I'm not sure if I would read the followup if it is ever published.
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  • Thelastwordreview
    January 1, 1970
    Make no mistake this is a very powerful novel. The President’s Gardens written by Mushin Al-Ramli and translated by Luke Leafgren is a book not to be taken lightly and is an incredibly beautiful novel that has passion running through its heart. An outstanding achievement in Iraqi literature. A story of incredible tragedy in unimaginable proportions. A story of three friends Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim that have been friends all their life and growing up in war torn Iraq. The sheer hell that was Make no mistake this is a very powerful novel. The President’s Gardens written by Mushin Al-Ramli and translated by Luke Leafgren is a book not to be taken lightly and is an incredibly beautiful novel that has passion running through its heart. An outstanding achievement in Iraqi literature. A story of incredible tragedy in unimaginable proportions. A story of three friends Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim that have been friends all their life and growing up in war torn Iraq. The sheer hell that was the war between Iraq and their neighbours Iran and then through the invasion of Kuwait through to the American led invasion of 2003. Haunting is the word I would use here, the opening gives the reader a lot to absorb and through the remaining pages the is more detail and along with more detailed descriptions of life in Iraq. The one aspect of this novel that pours out of the pages is ‘war’ it is ever present through the lives of the people of this country. Some of the descriptions of the ravages of war on villages and people are detailed at upsetting and the author does not shy away from writing this into the storyline. It is the horror of war that you cannot escape from. Some may find this disturbing but there are some very moving and beautiful moments in the story that bring joy and emotion to a deeply powerful novel. The three friends despite knowing each other for nearly all their life are uniquely different shaped by the events that have engulfed their country this is their story and there is tragedy waiting for one of them while the other has seen enough and longs for peace while the remaining friend has escaped the worst but things he does will have significant ramifications. To quote from the book “The skies rained down hell, the earth vomited it back up . . . the simple Iraqi soldiers who resisted fought in despair and died.” The writing is just incredible how the author tells a story of love, death war and more war. There is no escape. Although first published in Arabic in 2012 this is a book that needs to be read and should be read widely. It is an incredible read if upsetting at times. The story ends with “To be continued” Does this mean that we can expect a follow story. I for one earnestly hope that this is the case. HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDThank you to Paul Engles and MacLehose Press for the advanced review copy of The President’s Gardens.
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Our story starts where it ends; with beheadings. Tariq, Abdullah and Ibrahim are brothers in all but flesh. Born in the same year, they face life’s various milestones and paths together as one, until the day they don’t. Ibrahim and Abdullah drop out of school, leaving Tariq to study while they are enlisted in the army. The time in service brings Abdullah and Ibrahim closer together, until it doesn’t. Abdullah is captured and kept as prisoner while Ibrahim returns to his village and to Tariq. Fat Our story starts where it ends; with beheadings. Tariq, Abdullah and Ibrahim are brothers in all but flesh. Born in the same year, they face life’s various milestones and paths together as one, until the day they don’t. Ibrahim and Abdullah drop out of school, leaving Tariq to study while they are enlisted in the army. The time in service brings Abdullah and Ibrahim closer together, until it doesn’t. Abdullah is captured and kept as prisoner while Ibrahim returns to his village and to Tariq. Fate, it conspires, seems to keep the trio apart, until it doesn’t. Abdullah returns, after 20 years away.Finally reunited, the three men attempt to come to terms with all they have missed in each other’s lives, and to make the most of what is left. Yet apart from the horrors and barbarism witnessed during the war, there are other horrors at home, which almost go unnoticed. Ibrahim’s wife is in the grip of cancer, and in order to provide for their daughter and his wife’s treatment, he takes a job in Baghdad, tending the President’s gardens.Growing among the pristine flowerbeds and immaculate lawns, Ibrahim discovers also that other things have taken root; massacres sprout about his feet, and he must tend to them, silent and obeying.Memory can be inspiring or foreboding. As we retrace the steps of this trio of men from childhood to their separation, we need to overcome the obstacles of war. Brutalities and barbarism abound, in the words of the author, ‘madness incarnate’. While the work is one of fiction, it encompasses whispers of atrocities faced by real people, the tearing apart of real limbs and families, making it all the more powerful and macabre.The narrative is steeped in melancholy and stirred by outrage. Al-Ramli surrounds the reader with discomfort; forcing them to see the cruelty of which their brethren are capable, and to question what can be done about it. The President’s Gardens is deeply distressing and equally beautiful, making it a powerful and vital read.The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli is published by Hachette and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.
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  • Prerna Mishra
    January 1, 1970
    The President’s Gardens - Muhsin Al Ramli“Later, I realised that the cruelty of man is more barbaric than any other creature.”Abdullah, Ibrahim and Tariq are three best friends, sons of the “earth crack” living in rural Iraq. They grow up to be inseparable until Abdullah and Ibrahim are called for duty in the national army. The subsequent tumultuous years with two wars, a cruel dictator and a foreign invasion change the history of Iraq and the lives of these men. Abdullah is held as a prisoner o The President’s Gardens - Muhsin Al Ramli“Later, I realised that the cruelty of man is more barbaric than any other creature.”Abdullah, Ibrahim and Tariq are three best friends, sons of the “earth crack” living in rural Iraq. They grow up to be inseparable until Abdullah and Ibrahim are called for duty in the national army. The subsequent tumultuous years with two wars, a cruel dictator and a foreign invasion change the history of Iraq and the lives of these men. Abdullah is held as a prisoner of war, Ibrahim loses a leg and Tariq loses the carefree friends that he once knew. But as Ibrahim often said, “Everything is fate and decree.”I am deeply interested in books from the middle east, and this is the first time I picked one up set in Iraq. To imagine that people actually lived is such tyrannical dictatorial regimes is hard for a reader coming from the largest democracy in the world. The atrocities of the regime and the sufferings of the people have been described in great details. While this may be a work of fiction, it certainly is not too far from reality. It actually makes me wonder what kind of perverse and sadistic mind would inflict and then enjoy the suffering of that magnitude. But then, if we could answer that question; the world would be free of dictators. The characters emerge as true heroes; in that they are able to ultimately survive even though, “heroism was no longer esteemed in that country where heroes and traitors, humanity and savagery, sacrifice and exploitation were intertwined.”What I really liked about the book was the way it was narrated. It was like a folklore; and even the translation managed to keep its raw and rustic element intact. The feelings were conveyed in a simple and effective manner. I could feel Abdullah’s indifference towards life after captivity; Ibrahim’s equanimity is both good and bad times and Tariq’s zeal for life having escaped witnessing the horrors of war first hand. It was a good insight into a region that I had mostly known through the lenses and reports of journalists and I look forward to its sequel.
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  • Emma (M)
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up The President's Gardens as the synopsis intrigued me and I was interested in reading a novel about Iraq, written from an Iraqi perspective. I didn't know what to expect going in as I had never heard of the book, or the writer. As it turned out, although I didn't connect with the writing straight away, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. The lives of Ibrahim, and to a lesser extent his two friends, was highly absorbing and at times confronting. This is not a bo I picked up The President's Gardens as the synopsis intrigued me and I was interested in reading a novel about Iraq, written from an Iraqi perspective. I didn't know what to expect going in as I had never heard of the book, or the writer. As it turned out, although I didn't connect with the writing straight away, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. The lives of Ibrahim, and to a lesser extent his two friends, was highly absorbing and at times confronting. This is not a book of hope and happiness and certainly doesn't pull its punches in describing some of the atrocities the characters witness or are subjected to in their lives. That said, I found the writing detached enough that I didn't find the book emotionally difficult to read, despite some of the subject matter. In fact the emotional part for me, came from acts of kindness and humanity also displayed in the story. One disappointment for me was the book ended with a 'to be continued' right at the point where a character has come to an important realisation. I would like to have seen this character's storyline concluded. Despite the ending, The President's Garden was an interesting but confronting read, that was all-the-better for being told by an Iraqi perspective, rather than a Western.
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    Abdullah, Ibrahim and Tariq three friends and there life told from when they were young.The first secence is brutal, 10 heads in banana cart , Ibrahim is one of them.The story is fascinating and there is lots of dark humour, it starts with the fathers of these three boys and there life stories. At the beginning I was bit confused with names. Laughed all the way through, Suhayl and zahir plotting to cover their embarrassing situation.Ibrahim was my favourite character. The events that happened to Abdullah, Ibrahim and Tariq three friends and there life told from when they were young.The first secence is brutal, 10 heads in banana cart , Ibrahim is one of them.The story is fascinating and there is lots of dark humour, it starts with the fathers of these three boys and there life stories. At the beginning I was bit confused with names. Laughed all the way through, Suhayl and zahir plotting to cover their embarrassing situation.Ibrahim was my favourite character. The events that happened to him during the war was very shocking and brutal. The aftermath of the surrender of Iraq and how people reacted! I never heard of it .Uprising in the south and regime crushing his people, It is a saga , stories of people and I felt for each one of them, I loved Ibrahim, felt depressed with Abdullah , cried with Haja Zaynab and that was just the first half of the book!!!I couldn't get Ibrahim story out of my mind. I didn't know it was series , that why I was disappointed at the end, I need to wait for the next one!!!!!! I don't think the book needs any continues, So you can read it standalone .Netgalley giveaway.
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  • Aliaska Meva
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fictitious story, but it could also have been true. The reader follows the severe life challenges that the inhabitants of a village in Iraq are facing. Most of the men are mobilized in the war with Iran, followed by an American attack on Iraq. This strongly marks their lives and the lives of their families. Regardless of everything, the main protagonists of this story are very emotional creatures who seek the meaning of life (Quotations from the book:»Personally, even now I still haven This is a fictitious story, but it could also have been true. The reader follows the severe life challenges that the inhabitants of a village in Iraq are facing. Most of the men are mobilized in the war with Iran, followed by an American attack on Iraq. This strongly marks their lives and the lives of their families. Regardless of everything, the main protagonists of this story are very emotional creatures who seek the meaning of life (Quotations from the book:»Personally, even now I still haven't deciphered the exact meaning of life, I just don't understand it.« »If things have no meaning then it's up to us to create meaning, even if it's only an illusion«). There are many such poetic parts in this book. But what ruined the pleasure of reading this book was that the narrative ended quite unexpectedlly with many options that call for the continuation of the story. I think that the author missed the oportunity to further develop his story.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    If you like Khaled Hosseini’s books you’ll like this book. The story is set in Iraq during the Gulf War and surrounds the lives of 3 best friends from a small village. One of them becomes a prisoner of war for 20 years, one becomes a scholar, and one becomes an employee of a ruthless, narcissistic ruler: tending the many presidential gardens and the horrors they contain. The descriptions are both beautiful and stark. The events that take place are harrowing and devastating. The lives of these th If you like Khaled Hosseini’s books you’ll like this book. The story is set in Iraq during the Gulf War and surrounds the lives of 3 best friends from a small village. One of them becomes a prisoner of war for 20 years, one becomes a scholar, and one becomes an employee of a ruthless, narcissistic ruler: tending the many presidential gardens and the horrors they contain. The descriptions are both beautiful and stark. The events that take place are harrowing and devastating. The lives of these three men and those connected to them are so simplistic and intimate yet so difficult and secretive. Each of them has a secret they can’t talk about which eventually affects relationships. The author does a superb job in telling the story of the events that were taking place at that time through the eyes of a small village.
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  • The Idle Woman
    January 1, 1970
    For many of us, Iraq as an entity is summed up by the images of air strikes on the news and by the rhetoric of politicians and military leaders. It is a place that for all my life has seemed profoundly 'other': my earliest memories of seeing war on television are of the Gulf War, when I was five years old. So I came to this book with curiosity, hoping to learn more about the people who have suffered such an existence. Written by the expatriate Iraqi author Muhsin Al-Ramli, it's a haunting, often For many of us, Iraq as an entity is summed up by the images of air strikes on the news and by the rhetoric of politicians and military leaders. It is a place that for all my life has seemed profoundly 'other': my earliest memories of seeing war on television are of the Gulf War, when I was five years old. So I came to this book with curiosity, hoping to learn more about the people who have suffered such an existence. Written by the expatriate Iraqi author Muhsin Al-Ramli, it's a haunting, often horrific tale of three close friends in a rural community, whose lives intersect with the tragedy and chaos of their country.For the review, due to be published on 8 May 2017, please see my blog:https://theidlewoman.net/2017/05/08/t...
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Parts of this I loved, parts were hard to follow. Three friends grow up together in Iraq. abdullah loses a foot and spends 20 years as a prisoner of war, before learning of the tragedy and abuse of his real parentage. Ibrahim takes a job as a gardener for the president after his beloved wife dies, and ends up burying the bodies of the presidents enemies. I really enjoyed the end section about ibrahim but found much of the earlier story without purpose and difficult to follow. Revealed the differ Parts of this I loved, parts were hard to follow. Three friends grow up together in Iraq. abdullah loses a foot and spends 20 years as a prisoner of war, before learning of the tragedy and abuse of his real parentage. Ibrahim takes a job as a gardener for the president after his beloved wife dies, and ends up burying the bodies of the presidents enemies. I really enjoyed the end section about ibrahim but found much of the earlier story without purpose and difficult to follow. Revealed the differences between the lives of ordinary people and those in power in a totalitarian society, but the structure was difficult to follow, perhaps due to the translation?
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  • Irene
    January 1, 1970
    A book about friendship, familial ties, and the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I am aghast at the cruelties of war and the callousness of the persons in power. And I am touched by how some try their best to do right by others, even as they are going through difficult times themselves. Blessed are those who live in peaceful lands and times! Reading this book made me want to understand more about what happened in Iraq. I wonder why the author decided to leave out the President's name A book about friendship, familial ties, and the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I am aghast at the cruelties of war and the callousness of the persons in power. And I am touched by how some try their best to do right by others, even as they are going through difficult times themselves. Blessed are those who live in peaceful lands and times! Reading this book made me want to understand more about what happened in Iraq. I wonder why the author decided to leave out the President's name in the entire book. It is never mentioned in the book. Not once.
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  • I Read, Therefore I Blog
    January 1, 1970
    First published in 2013 and long listed for the I.P.A.F. (the Arabic Booker) Muhsin Al-Ramli's literary novel (translated from Arabic by Luke Leafgren) is a dreamy, sorrowful lament on Iraq's tragic history as seen through the prism of male friendship as it's battered by the demands of village tradition, war and male rivalry but there's a lack of strong female characters and the abrupt ending was too open-ended for my taste.
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  • Matthew Pritchard
    January 1, 1970
    Horrifying, distressing and (in parts) truly upsetting, this book lays bare the endless cycle of misery, oppression and violence that has engulfed Iraqis since the onset of the Iran-Iraq war. Told through the eyes of three friends from a peasant village, the story is not all doom and gloom - but that makes the sudden intrusion of rape, stoning, and hideously inventive torture all the more shocking. This is not one for the faint-hearted.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely stunning. This is by far one of the most powerful and beautiful novels I've ever read. Every word of this epic telling of life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein is filled with meaning. Al-Ramli's novel deserves to be read slowly and with a deep appreciation for the author's wisdom and awareness of the human condition. This novel has changed my life--it should be read far and wide.
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  • Eddie
    January 1, 1970
    interesting perspective on Iraq and its people. The characters are well drawn and the tale prattles on at a pace with interesting and unexpected turns at times. An enjoyable and thought provoking read.
  • Claudia Walmsley
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written book, full of sadness, tragedy, hope & determination. The characters were delightful & I felt such joy for Ibrahim when his daughter retuned to the village with his grandson.
  • Tom Bennett
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. What a story. Not for the faint hearted, but a wonderful story that is rammed with brilliant characters. And despite being set in a hard, harsh, time - this is truly a celebration of the human spirit.
  • Adam Pearson
    January 1, 1970
    A really good read and fascinating insight to Iraqi life and experience but I found it difficult to finish, hard to chew through eventually.
  • Kim Dallmeier
    January 1, 1970
    This was certainly not the easiest historical fiction I've ever read, but it certainly was thought provoking and very well written. Just wouldn't recommend it to sensitive stomachs.
  • Jessie Scott
    January 1, 1970
    I wasn't sure what to expect from a book that begins with the discovery of nine severed heads - any story set in Iraq is unlikely to be cheerful, and The President's Gardens delivers frequent accounts of horror and cruelty in the era of Saddam. There seems to be a real dearth of books (in English anyway) from the perspective of Iraqis about the succession of traumas they have suffered since their country's inception, so I was pleased to come across this, and despite the grisliness I found it to I wasn't sure what to expect from a book that begins with the discovery of nine severed heads - any story set in Iraq is unlikely to be cheerful, and The President's Gardens delivers frequent accounts of horror and cruelty in the era of Saddam. There seems to be a real dearth of books (in English anyway) from the perspective of Iraqis about the succession of traumas they have suffered since their country's inception, so I was pleased to come across this, and despite the grisliness I found it to be a thought-provoking and exciting read.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    A disturbing and moving look at Iraq through the eyes of an Iraqi writer. Longer review to follow on my blog at https://readingdiverselyayearofnotrea...
  • Laura Tran
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up The President's Gardens from the local library, and my god has it changed everything. This book is beautiful and haunting in every of its aspects, the authenticity of the characters, their motivations, passion, and thoughts... Their stories are told as individuals and as a group of life-long friends making up a detailed picture of Iraq that comes to life: death, destruction, havoc and terror, love, friendship, family, innocence, and tragedy... All packed together creating a masterpie I picked up The President's Gardens from the local library, and my god has it changed everything. This book is beautiful and haunting in every of its aspects, the authenticity of the characters, their motivations, passion, and thoughts... Their stories are told as individuals and as a group of life-long friends making up a detailed picture of Iraq that comes to life: death, destruction, havoc and terror, love, friendship, family, innocence, and tragedy... All packed together creating a masterpiece that stays true to life and the hardship and misfortune that come with it.My heart sings for Al-Ramli's work. And my mind soars by the fact that the novel never truly ended. Like life, I hope it would go on forever.
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