Wednesday 2 May 2007

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtmanche

This book was my choice for our April Book Group which actually met in May.

It is a harrowing tale. It tells the story of Valcourt, a burnt out, hardened reporter who has travelled the world's war zones to tell the stories of the people who live and die in the battles the rest of the world is ignoring. And Gentille, the beautiful Hutu who looks like a Tutsi because the blood of her ancestors has mixed for generations making neither a Hutu or a Tutsi. The story weaves their love story in and out of the horror of the Rwandan genocide of the Hutus against the Tutsis. Neighbours kill neighbours. Cousins kill cousins. All men are killed. Women are raped. Children are tossed aside to die of their own accord. It is horrifying.

I read before bed and this book gave me nightmares. But I couldn't stop reading, wouldn't stop reading. This horror happened in my lifetime. I remember seeing it on the news. I personally had so dehumanised the people in the story that I couldn't be bothered to figure out what the difference between Hutus and Tutusis was and why I should care. This book an interesting and honest face without being sentimental and coming across like one of those TV ads with that make you feel so guilty you just turn the channel and eventually you become so desensitised they cease to make any impact at all. In the end, I learned a tremendous amount about what happened in Rwanda and how the world stood by and let it happen.

The language of the novel is beautiful and starkly honest. It is a true story and the characters are presented with all their human flaws and failures. It is a disturbing story on so many levels.
The film, Hotel Rwanda, was based loosely on one (very small) part of this story. I found the film, horrifying and hopeful. I found the book just horrifying and haunting but required reading, nonetheless.

PS All but 1 member finished the book and we were all pretty much in agreement that the book presented the story of the Rwanda genocide in a fact based and haunting manor. We can't say we enjoyed the book but it served its purpose. We learned about the atrocity that was the Rwandan genocide from a very human perspective and the failure of the world to act. Next month's selection is The Girls by Lori Lansens.

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