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Ancestor Stones Paperback – Sep 10 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (Sept. 10 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802143210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802143211
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #259,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully rendered Oct. 9 2006
By Q - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A beautifully rendered novel, reminiscent in some ways of Andrea Levy's Small Island which won a few prestigious awards a few years ago. The scope here of Aminatta Forna's novel, though, is slightly larger, representing a range of women's voices, their individual life-stories often clamoring with one another to form a rich, mosaic depicting the various fates of a community of African women living through social and political changes. While the novel focuses on the women's personal stories, it does not by any means insulate itself from the ever-encroaching social, political and historical pressures exerted by Western imperialism, colonialism, as well as independence and the ensuing civil war.

Since Publishers Weekly and the Booklist provide a summary of the novel above, I won't repeat it here, but I would say that I disagree with Publishers' comment--that the novel here is really a collection of linked stories--because that is simply untrue. While each chapter is a first-person narration of one woman's story, they are not self-contained; they are simply not structured that way, and as a casual and critical reader of linked stories, I would say that, experientially, it doesn't read like that either. Moreover, to see this text as linked stories instead of a novel is perhaps to miss what I think is one of the novel's fundamental points: that these stories are inseparable from one another, the multiple voices not only building on each other, but also proving to be indispensible to the telling of this continuing collective history--or perhaps herstory--of Sierra Leone.

I would also contest the comparison the jacket cover makes between this book and Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club. One of the many things I appreciated about this novel is precisely that it resists overly sentimentalized and/or utopian depictions of this community of women. To be sure, the novel dramatizes the struggles and defiance of women living under Sierra Leone's patriarchal culture, this novel does not devolve into tear-jerking melodrama, or reduce the problems to patriarchal oppression alone. Instead, it offers a range of subtle (and not-so-subtle, though never didactic) critques of not just African patriarchal culture and its practices, but also of the many guises of Western colonialism and its legacies, as well as of the power inequalities, struggles and hypocrisies among the women themselves, who, in many and various ways, contribute to the social and political problems addressed.

Overall, Ancestor Stones is a good, substantial, fluid read, the writing lyrical, but not overly so, with plenty of narrative tension, as well as critical complexities that challenge Western assumptions about Africa and African women, sometimes holding up a proverbial mirror to reflect back images of the West and Western attitudes towards African people. I would give this a 4.5, but since that's not an option, I've chosen to give it a 5 instead of a 4. Well worth the read.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Read it to make them live on! March 23 2007
By Isabelle Rzehulka - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a fine example of how crucial a front cover can be for grabbing readers' attention. I, too, was attracted to "Ancestor Stones" by the colorful letters and graceful cover composition (Atlantic Monthly Press edition) in the first place. Rest assured, the promise made was kept!

I value novels that weave facts into the storyline and thus give me a better understanding of different cultures and mindsets. Along with the women's many personal triumphs and tragedies I learned a lot about the country's (assumed to be Sierra Leone) history, customs, social and cultural changes and, sadly, intense political upheaval. Ms Forna's beautifully crafted prose made me marvel at bygone village-life in serene, Eden-like surroundings, while later on I almost choked on the atrocities of civil war. Of course, given her writing talent she never needs to get graphic.

I don't give a full five stars because the book felt a little bit overconstructed with its prologue, epilogue and the four individually themed blocks that bind the chapters together. In addition, the chapters don't carry on the life-stories where they left off in the previous chapter. To know what had happened in between would have been interesting on the one hand and helpful on the other. I often needed to turn back the pages to remind me of the particular history of a protagonist.

However, I don't consider this a flaw. One just doesn't have to comprise this book as four comprehensive biographies, but rather pivotal periods in each woman's life, each opening a window into their world and times. In the end, I felt both uplifted and humbled by their courage and resilience to all kinds of adversity.

I will definitely get Ms Forna's memoir and hope that she will soon publish her next book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Amahzing Book Aug. 1 2008
By Barry C. Schwaab - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a guy, I first read the back cover review of the book, and said "chick book". But I gave it a chance. How wrong I was. It's an incredible 'recollection' of life in Africa through the 1900s, as told by the women of different generations who relate their stories.
This is all a revelation to me - how would a white boy living in the US have any clue to what daily life was like then and there?

But, it turns out to be absolutely fascinating. The author creates her stories 'visually' extremely well - you feel like you're right there, observing the scene or event that's being described. Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A vision of storytelling in womens voices Feb. 17 2008
By watermama - Published on
Format: Paperback
A great novel shows much and leaves more for the mind to unwind. Ancestor Stones does just that. I finished the last pages with tears on my face and questions left unanswered.

The bits of story left untold about the war and the safety of family members (Adama and her soon to be born child heading into the forbidden forests for example) serve to make this a stronger novel. I enjoy the fact that Forna leaves me with living stories, not cast off unnoteworthy letters and diaries as she puts it.

I will read her memoir and await further writing from Forna. The life stories she holds are vivid.
A New Type of Novel Aug. 17 2013
By AA Greece - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I suppose this could be called 'faction' in that it combines fact with all the pleasures of a well-written novel but that categorization
does little to convey the wonderful language and images that together provide such insight into the lives we witness while reading the book. It's so far beyond it you can't reduce it to 'post-colonial' literature. It's a book that defies classification even as it draws you in and keeps you fascinated.

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