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Gulf [Paperback]

Robert Westall
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 15 2002
Tom has always known his younger brother Andy (special name, Figgis) was a bit different. One morning in August when Figgis is twelve, Tom suddenly wakes up to find him shouting in the dawn. He shakes him only for Figgis to fight back viciously. When he snaps awake, Figgis says he was dreaming, and the radio over breakfast tells them the Gulf War has just begun. While Figgis shaves his hair, waking Tom up at night speaking in a strange language, Tom has a wonderful time playing rugby with his father's team. But it's his last fully happy day. Tom contacts 'Latif', the boy within Figgis, to find out about the bunkers, the guns and the army in the desert. As the Gulf War draws to a close, and life for Latif becomes harder, Figgis's condition gets worse. The family are forced to take him into a mental hospital. They are divided as Tom witnesses Latif's experiences through Figgis, while his down-to-earth parents enjoy the Americans' triumphs over Iraq. He stays with Figgis and together they live through the last moments of Latif's battle. Figgis, thankfully, remembers nothing of his experience, but Tom cannot look at the world in the same way again. He will never forget.

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From Booklist

Gr. 6^-10. Andy has an intense imagination, and he feels things deeply. Once, when he saw a newspaper photo of an Ethiopian woman and her starving child, he lapsed into a trance of sorts for a couple of days, taking on the persona of the child until Andy pronounced him dead of starvation. When the Persian Gulf conflict erupts, Andy is so profoundly affected he "becomes" a young Iraqi fighter named Latif, speaks Arabic, endures the battles, and is so disconnected from his former life that he has to be hospitalized and treated by a psychiatrist. Dr. Rashid treats the phenomenon as a mystery of nature that does not fit neatly into schizophrenia or other known diseases. The doctor's compassion and quiet good sense, Andy's parents' suffering and love, and Andy's brother Tom's heartfelt narration of the tale strike to the reader's heart. The late British author Westall has told a stunning story that will appeal both as a family novel and as a war novel. Anne O'Malley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

Set at the time of the Gulf War, Westall's story explores further conflicts within a British family. Ian Dunn narrates the view of 15-year-old Tom Higgins. Dunn projects the energy of a hearty, rugby-play ing family until Tom's younger brother changes all their lives. Foreshadowing the psychotic experiences that eventually overwhelm the boys, Dunn carefully builds suspense and projects the frightening and riveting power of these episodes. The narration bridges reality and delusion, drawing the listeners into the mix of emotions. Dunn's subtle, yet dynamic, narration brilliantly complements Westall's spellbinding, complex story for young adults. R.F.W. An AUDIOFILE Earphones Award winner. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential! May 5 2004
By Kate B.
Format:Library Binding
This book made me cry. All three times I read it. It succeeds completely in its goal of making you see the Gulf War from the other side, the side of the "enemy" Iraqis. "Gulf" is about a British boy, Andy, who has a strange emphatic gift. He can identify with anyone or anything, from an injured baby squirrel to an African witch-doctor he reads about in the paper. He seems to be a bit psychic. His family is used to his strangeness, so when he starts dreaming about the desert, they think nothing of it. His older brother, the narrator, is only entertained by Andy's half-asleep retelling of these dreams, which coincide with the first war in Iraq. Soon enough though, Andy can't be fully awakened. He will only speak in a gutteral language that is unfamiliar to them and stalks around as if he is under attack. He has traded bodies with a young Iraqi soldier, under attack by the Americans and fiercyly loyal to Sadam Hussein. This book is really short and gripping. You will be thinking about it for much longer than it takes you to read it. Why did we go to war? Why are we at war again?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool Book!!!! Oct. 11 2001
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding
This book is cool. It starts out in England talking about a kid named Andy whose nickname is Figgis. His older brother tells the story. Figgis is a little different. He seems to feel things more than other kids and always asks questions no one else seems to. He also feels differently than other kids. When he sees something on tv about kids starving he stops eating too.
The Gulf War begins. Everyone in his class is excited and hoping that the allies win. All except Figgis who begins to speak in Arabic and starts talking about the Gulf War as though he can really see what it is like. Soon his parents have to take him to the hospital because he goes into trances.
I don't want to give away the ending. I really reccomend this book. It was Coooooooooooooool!!!
Thomas D
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book takes you to the outer limits of imagination April 24 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding
This book is about a 'normal' family in England. Suddenly Figgis, (whose real name is Andy) starts thinking he is in the Gulf war. He spends his time polishing his gun and shouting out things in perfect German even though he has never learnt this language. Andy's brother, (Thomas) is the only one who knows about Andy's visions, and feels guilty because he tells no-one about it. Figgis gets put in a mental hospitol, but the doctor there knows that Figgis is not a mental case and trys to figure out what to do about it. ...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This review does not do Gulf ANY justice. June 30 2003
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding
Gulf, by Robert Westall, is an amazing, amazing book. I read it recently during the war against Iraq. It was the seventh time I have read the book.
Gulf is about Figgis, a strange child who does abnormal things. In the book, they are called his Things. He will see something, hear something, read something, or discover a piece of information and immediately connect with it.
He will obsess over the Thing for days until it is simply over. Then he'll find a new Thing.
One of his most peculiar things happened when he saw an article in the newspaper. On the front page was a picture of a man. There was no caption underneath the picture with his name. Figgis suddenly wanted to write to the man. His parents managed to find out where the man lived, but they didn't know his name. Figgis wrote the man a letter. He began it, "Dear Charlie." When Figgis received a letter from the man, it was signed Charlie. It was addressed "Dear Andy", Figgis' real name. But the odd thing was that Figgis had signed the letter to Charlie "Figgis."
Then one night, Figgis' brother finds Andy muttering in a strange language. When Figgis awakes, he doesn't remember ever doing it and he can't speak the language. After that, it happens more and more. Every night, Figgis becomes someone else. He doesn't know Tom, his own brother. He climbs to the rooftop one night and sits there, speaking in the strange, harsh language, muttering to himself.
After a while, you find out what has happened to Figgis. He is speaking Arabic. He is experiencing what a soldier in the Gulf War is.
Figgis is taken to a mental hospital. There he speaks the language to himself, wears Army clothing, builds bunkers around himself, and uses a gun that the hospital staff found him. The Arabic soldier has taken Figgis over. Figgis not only experiences the soldier's life at night, now he IS the soldier the entire day.
Everything is made worse by everything else. Figgis no longer exists. It is like some terrible disease has taken him away from his family and friends. His dad, a true patriot, is always screaming at the television and watching in glee as more enemy soldiers are killed. Now his son is one.
This book is a somber, scientific read. It's definitely not for everyone. Also, true patriots who think that their country is always in the right shouldn't read this book. Some of it has to do with whether war is ever right. It points out that the soldiers on the other side are just as real as we are. They think that their view is more right than ours and they are also willing to die for it.
Later on in the hospital, when Figgis returns to himself for a few brief moments, he says to Tom that maybe his position is to make up for all the people out there who don't give a damn about who's going to die, and who is going to be wounded. Maybe Figgis' terrible state is because no one in his family except Tom really cares about the other side of the war. His father just wants to see as many dead men from the other side as he can. Tom's mother is sympathetic, but perhaps not enough. Maybe Figgis must suffer because NO ONE except those actually fighting wars seems to care about them. I have to admit that I didn't even know what the Gulf War was until I read this book.
Gulf is an amazing title because it's not only about the Gulf War, it's about the Gulf between us and everyone dying out there, it's about the Gulf between happy if not normal kids and kids who are soldiers. It's also about the Gulf between the real Figgis and the soldier he becomes.
This book might change your life. But if you're stuck in your own point of view and you can't handle all the horrible, maybe even possible things that happen to Figgis, don't read this book. Everyone else, give this amazing, thought-provoking, life-changing, better-than-any-book-I've-ever-read-and-that's-saying-something-because-I-read-EVERYTHING book a chance.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but quite not understandable April 9 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding
Gulf is a story of a boy (Andy) who can feel things that are happening to people thousands of miles away. When he saw a picture of an Ethiopian woman in the newspaper, he immeadiately knew her name and felt what she was feeling. When the Gulf war started in 1991, Andy, then 12, starts behaviing strangly and has to be examined by a doctor. The doctor finds out, with the help of Andy's older brother, who narrates the story, that Andy is 'possessed' by Letif, an Araqi boy sent out to fight. Andystarts to talk in Araqi and sets up a camp in his hospital room. At the end, Letif gets killed and Andy wakes up. This book is quite strange, as it has no meaning, and after you read it, you go 'oh. was that it?'
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that stretches the imagination and holds the interest Jan. 6 1998
By carol.robinson@us.schroders.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
As copy editor of Gulf when it was published by Scholastic, I was intrigued by the far-fetched but oddly believable story of an English boy whose consciousness becomes entangled with that of a desperate Gulf War soldier. The book uses the conceit familiar in so many children's books--that adults dub a child's experience "fantasy" when he is telling the truth--and pulls it into the real world with a troubling impact. I became a serious fan of Westall through this book, progressing to Blitzcat and then every other book of his I could obtain; he was a wonderful author, too little known in the United States.
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