Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene

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Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Slang-filled and sassy look at Parisian life from an Algerian immigrant's point of view.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099512929

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This is the story of twenty-four-year-old Ahleme, an Algerian immigrant living in Paris with her father, The Boss, who was disabled by an accident at work, and her younger brother, Foued, who is on the brink of being excluded from school and is getting caught up in criminal activities with kids on their estate. Ahleme has to be wise beyond her years, taking care of the family, bringing home the money they need to live through a succession of dead-end, temporary jobs despite being obviously very intelligent and destined for a better life. They are at constant risk of being deported back to Algeria since neither of them was born in France, though Foued barely remembers 'home' as he came to France after their mother's death when they were both still very young.

At the same time as searching for a job, and for a way to become a French citizen, Ahleme has her eye out for a suitable boyfriend though she has very high standards and dismisses most of the losers that her friends try to set her up with. Ahleme spends her time working, drinking coffee in cafes, worrying about her brother, scribbling in her notebook and meeting up with her two girlfriends. She finally goes back to Algeria with her family to try to demonstrate to her brother the need for him to get his act together so he doesn't get deported back there alone and to find a sense of peace within herself over her past life and her future potential.

In the original French version of this novel, the author uses a lot of Verlan, a French slang which uses lots of slang and African words. This obviously proved a challenge to the translator to try to replicate that individualistic language. She uses some British contemporary urban slang to try to reproduce the same effect which sometimes works well but occasionally did seem to jar a little. If phrases like Low it, man, you're getting me vexed annoy you, then you should probably steer clear of this novel. One tip I have is that there's a glossary at the end of the book that I wish I'd known about at the beginning!

The book isn't really plot-driven. It actually felt more like a collection of short stories or vignettes at times - a novella rather than a novel as it's quite short. I felt it was clear that the author was young and inexperienced, but it's still a charming little book. I liked Ahleme as a character, foul-mouthed and sassy amongst her friends, mothering and protective of her brother, and intelligent and thoughtful in moments of private reflection. There's humour throughout the book, and it deals with a very different and interesting viewpoint to Paris than the usual city of romance and art, throwing light on the immigrant's struggle to belong in their new home country.

Fabia Guene is being hailed by some as a revolutionary writer in France, shaking up their old-style literary traditions. Here in the UK we're more used to seeing books that throw light on life in working-class council estates and high-rise flats, or issues of immigration thanks to writers like Monica Ali and Zadie Smith, as well as books using slang vernacular such as Irvine Welsh or Anne Donovan. This one is worth a read though, and I found it refreshingly easy to slip in and out of. Even though she's dealing with quite depressing situations there is the constant humour and an air of hope overall. It will be interesting to see how she develops as a writer in the future.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For a great read about the British Black urban youth experience try The Dirty South by Alex Wheatle or a British book that deals with Bangladeshi immigrants in London is Monica Ali's Brick Lane. You might also enjoy Bar Balto by Faiza Guene and Sarah Ardizzone.

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Buy Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dreams From The Endz by Faiza Guene at Amazon.com.


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