Ever since I first saw a few of these novellas by Periene Press in a bookshop I was drawn under their spell; their beautiful design from the minimalist connecting covers to the inside flaps, paper texture, and the publishers note on why they chose to publish it, everything is so well considered and that's before we get to the fiction contained inside. After loving the first two I read (The Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman & The Looking-Glass Sisters) I decided to collect them and now I've have been sent a copy of their newest 'The Orange Grove' to review. I love reading but have never attempted to write a review before, so here goes...
The story is set in an unknown country which could be nowhere and everywhere in a time that has experienced a war; it could even be all a dream, as you often hope reality is. But Aziz & Ahmed always come back to the Orange Grove; the gathering of fruit in the harvest, the flowers, the canopy's shade, the dirt and rocks the oranges grow out of. These sights and smells of the Orange Grove ground you to a simple domestic oasis of home, nature, the earth, where you came from, your country, your father and mother.
Aziz & Ahmed are twin brothers who live by the Orange Grove next to where their grandparents were recently killed by a bomb which came from the other side of the mountain. The local militants decide that revenge & honour must be sought by their father who has to choose one of his sons to sacrifice.
The bones of the story is given up in the blurb, when you know that one of the brothers has to be sacrificed by wearing a suicide belt and the implications this has on the brother that survives. As you await the inevitable fate of one of the brothers the story unfolds through a quiet, beautiful, poetic tale of truth, lies, duty, brainwashing, honour/dishonour and a mother's undying love for her sons.
The Orange Grove forces you to view war from this small family perspective, they could easily be you, having to live your life, raise your children through bombs, suicide vests, militants and having to keep your family's honour intact so the future is still bearable. This family living through the horrors of war teaches you about tolerance, compassion, love and circumstances.
The Orange Grove left me at a stalement, as life and war often does, with no peace in sight, only questions. How does the future recover from the scars of war, how is one person's life worth more than another, why are innocent children always involved? War has always been a part of history and sadly I feel it always will be, but those losses and lives buried under miles of earth sometimes can grow into oranges.
A heartbreakingly beautiful read that will be with me a long time, teaching me more about tolerance, compassion and love, I highly recommend it.
Thanks to Periene Press and go check out all their books!