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Harbor Paperback – 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846270340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846270345
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 322 g
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars 50 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, but demanding March 3 2005
By Charles Throckmorton - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A riveting, thought-provoking book. Beautifully written, with excellent development of numerous characters. I was perversely sad to "leave" the bleak world of these immigrants when the novel was over.

My only comment to those who haven't read it is that the book requires VERY close reading to get the most out of it. 2/3 of the way through, when I was eager to charge through to the climax, I realized that I was confusing some of the characters and/or had not retained necessary information about them. Some, but not all,of this is attributable to the fact that most of the characters had unfamiliar names. At one point, I was as confused as the FBI agents as to who was who --- Rafik, Ghazi, Kamal, etc. I went back and carefully re-read the first 2/3 and it was well worth it. I do have to say that the chapter where Aziz first joins the rebels in the army camp is extraordinarily difficult to follow, and could have been edited better for comprehension. I read it about 5 times very rigorously, trying to follow what was going on, and it remains very confusing.

An extremely enjoyable novel that rewards the unusual effort that it demands from the reader.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a valuable effort Sept. 12 2004
By Simon Crowe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There's no question that we need a novel like Lorraine Adams' HARBOR, an attempt to recount the experiences of a group of Middle Eastern immigrants in America pre-9/11. I admired much of the writing in this book, but I thought Adams' inability to bring life to her protagonist at certain key points prevented this book from fully working for me.

Some of the strongest scenes are early on, where Aziz (an ex-soldier from Algeria) jumps off a ship and swims into Boston Harbor. Of course, Aziz doesn't know the language and isn't in good health, and Adams does a wonderful job conveying his sensory disassociation from the world around him. Aziz never really loses that disassociation though, it's as if he spends much of the novel with earplugs on. Even when he's reunited with friends and later his brother, and begins to suss out what he thinks may be a terrorist plot, Aziz seems remarkably casual about what's happening. We also get flashbacks to Aziz's life in Algeria, where he - mistaken for another man - falls in with a band of mercenaries before escaping....again, Aziz seems carried along by events. Anyone not familar with Algerian politics will have a hard time figuring out some of these scenes.

I thought the end of the book was the weakest, as point-of-view ping pongs between several characters, including the FBI, and characters from early in the book are suddenly reintroduced.

Still, I think HARBOR is a very promising debut, and I hope Adams continues to tackle subjects of such relevance.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed in what I expected to be a great novel... Oct. 27 2004
By Marie GG - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It looks like I'm unusual in not being enthusiastically positive about this book. There is much to like about it: I felt that Lorraine Adams presented a sympathetic portrait of recent Arab immigrants to the U.S. and the difficulty they can have in adjusting to our culture. This is a much-needed book because of the huge divisions we have in the U.S. among Arabs, Jews, and Christians. I was really looking forward to reading it, and that's why I was disappointed.

Perhaps it's my ignorance of Algerian history and events, or maybe it's my preference for more details...but many of the scenes (particularly the flashbacks to Algeria, and the bar scenes in the U.S.) were hard to follow. I found myself scanning over paragraphs to get the general gist of the story, until I could get back to the more interesting parts. Reading over the many reviews of this book, very few reviewers mention this fault...although one called some of the text "unwieldy."

Incidents in the past are alluded to, for example, hashish dealings and one character's shady experiences in Paris and Morocco, but the story is not ever adequately told.

The intelligence services are depicted as clueless and apt to jump to conclusions without proving their theories. I hope to God that intelligent services are really not as inept as they are portrayed in this book!

The first part of the book was fascinating, and I was immediately drawn into Aziz's adventures. But the author eventually lost me as a committed reader. I did finish the book, but mostly because I was away for the weekend and didn't have other books to read. Otherwise I probably would have put it down.

I am disappointed, because I really wanted to like this book. I wanted more detail and a more thorough narrative of what was going on. I believe that the author has potential, but she needed a harsher critic before the book was published. I realize that I'm alone in this opinion of the book, but that's one reason I was compelled to write a review and state my opinion.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Illegal Alien Arriving Just Before 9/11. Sept. 13 2004
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a first book, this is an impressive start. Few mysteries that I've read have been able to keep up with the changes going on in the world. With peace broken out between the U.S.S.R. and the rest of the world, you cannot use the KGB as the enemy any more. Here is a mystery, set in the United States but with the main character an illegal alien. Bewildered by the culture, a language he cannot speak, a world willing to take advantage of him and to use him for their own purposes.

And life is going at least OK when the F.B.I. starts to get involved with suspicions of terrorism both his and our assumptions about what is going on suddenly get much more complex. This is especially true as we realize that this is the time leading up to the 9/11 attacks. I find myself wondering just how Ms. Adams was able to develop such an interesting and complete character from a culture (Algerian) so different than ours. I think we have a new major player in the fiction scene.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read Sept. 8 2004
By A. Binstock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Harbor definitely works as the gripping story of an immigrant trying to survive in an unfamiliar society. But more importantly, this book beautifully and heartbreakingly describes the duality of individual existence...the difference between the way we perceive ourselves and our own actions vs. the way the outside world perceives us. The book has haunted me since the minute I finished it.