Set against the stark beauty of sub-Saharan West Africa Harmattan is evocative and heart-wrenching. Suffused with an anger that is all the more powerful for its masterful understatement, this is a story that will be talked about for years to come.
Will appeal strongly to readers of A Thousand Splendid Suns, Half a Yellow Sun and similar novels.
Harmattan (n. A dry, dusty wind that blows from the Sahara- probably from the Arabic haram, a forbidden or accursed thing).
Haoua is a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited independent and intelligent, she has benefited from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother and enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends.
Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mother’s worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife.
Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors.
But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon: as civil strife mounts in Niger, she begins to fear for Abdelkrim’s safety; her mother’s illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognised; and her father’s plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined.
Approaching her twelfth birthday, Haoua feels alone and vulnerable for the very first time in her life.
‘Harmattan is a captivating and beautifully written debut novel. Gavin Weston’s unique and distinctive style hails a new era in Northern Irish literature.’ Kellie Chambers, Ulster Tatler
‘At 11, narrator Haoua Boureima is a promising student in a remote village in Niger, her education supported by Vision Corps International. But her dreams of being a teacher die, and her life begins a downward spiral, when her mother, diagnosed with AIDS, is taken to a hospital in the capital city of Niamey. As the oldest of three children at home, Haoua is given even more chores by her father, who forbids her returning to school despite the entreaty of her teacher. Haoua’s only support is from her older brother, Abdelkrim, a soldier stationed in Niamey, who does what he can before the unrest that follows the assassination of President Mainassara. At 12, Haoua becomes the third wife of her father’s brutal cousin, with dreadful consequences. Weston’s first novel captures a time and a place, from the beauty of Niger’s vistas to the inhumanity of its patriarchal culture. The latter will arouse outrage, as will the restrictions posed by an NGO that is there to help. This is fiction that conveys truth more vividly than fact could.’ Michele Leber
|Release Date||21 April 2012|
|Publish Date||7 May 2013|