The Hired Man / Aminatta Forna

I read a memoir by Aminatta Forna a number of years ago and I was impressed with her first published work. The Devil That Danced On Water dealt with the country where she spent most of her childhood, Sierra Leone. It focused on her father, a physician, who became active in politics and later served in the government as a financial minister. After he resigned from office, citing political violence and rampant corruption, her father was arrested for treason and later hanged. While not set in Africa, The Hired Man, a novel, covers much the same territory. It, too, explores the grudges and greed that emerge in the course of civil unrest. Gost is a Croatian village in a mountainous, undeveloped region of the country. Duro Kolak is a lifetime resident of the village, a loner who does odd jobs and hunts to keep food on his table. His closest companions are the two dogs who assist him in the latter endeavor. He is the story’s narrator and a person I think most readers will take an instant liking to. One day he notices a strange car in the area and is told foreigners have moved into a house close to his own. This place, we later learn, is dear to his heart. The new residents are a middle aged British woman, named Laura, and her two adolescent children. He introduces himself and quickly is hired to help repair their summer cottage. His relationship with this family soon grows into friendship, and it provides a necessary ingredient of tenderness to this story. The arrival of these new inhabitants into this particular house rouses unpleasant memories in many of the locals. In bits and pieces, Duro’s narration begins to reveal the secrets of his village. In passing, he mentions that at one time the place had two bakeries but now only has only one, that many stores have been shuttered and houses abandoned, and the Serbian Orthodox church is no longer open. But the whole truth about Gost is not revealed until the book’s concluding chapters. Forna is a fantastic storyteller and she has created a gripping novel that kept me enthralled from page one. She masterfully evokes the personality of a town afflicted with posttraumatic stress following Croatia’s civil war. The book chronicles the lingering tension, guilt and hidden scars the inhabitants refuse to acknowledge. Forna has received critical acclaim for The Hired Man and I can only add my voice to the chorus. It is a novel that deserves to be better known


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: