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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Sheltering Sky
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on October 4, 2014
I had seen the movie and found it unsettling, though not necessarily in a bad way. And although (as it turns out) the book and the movie follow almost exactly the same storyline, I'd been looking for more background, albeit in subtle ways. I wasn't 100% satisfied in this, but it did bring me to a much better understanding of the movie, the characters and the situations, as well as the more profound insights into human nature and relationships to be gained. Now I'm looking forward to watching the movie (starring John Malkovich and Debra Winger) again !!
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on September 18, 2017
First class !!!!
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on August 18, 2017
A magnificently written novel, but at the same time extremely depressing.
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on September 11, 2017
Fantastic book !! Very good on diction ! Thanks!
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on August 31, 2014
Awesome novel. Best ever.
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on December 1, 2016
This is a book I may not have chosen to read had I known more about it, but since it is a classic I am glad I did anyway.
The main female character was totally selfish and irrational, in my opinion, and therefore all that happened to her was because of her seeming sense of superiority. Her lack of understanding of the ways of the people in whose country she was visiting was severely lacking, which led her into very dangerous situations.
It's a fascinating read.
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on May 4, 2003
Beautifully-written novel about the cruelty of that which we do not know or understand. There were unbelievable descriptions of the filth and abject poverty in the some of the North African cities. At these times, it was difficult to see the beauty that the main traveler, Port, was searching for, and also laid to waste a lot of the glamor attached to the "world traveler" in third-world countries. The entire story was filled with poetic imagery of the desert, death, the sky, the sun and heat. Also many characters along the journey; the descriptions of the Lyles were incredible: A wonderful picture of such a disgusting and despicable pair. There were many other characters like the menacing Captain Broussard, the frightening yet intriguing Belqassim.
For the first part of the book, we met Kit and Port, who supposedly went to North Africa to rekindle their marriage, although I didn't get that impression simply because a) Port invited his friend Tunner and b) Kit didn't seem to share Port's interest in North Africa and c) neither Port nor Kit seemed interested in each other once they got there. At some point, all three of them had cheated on each other, betraying each other's trust, friendship, and love, though the issue was never confronted by any of them. In fact, these characters' personalities and relationships to each other were the most bewildering issues of the book.
There was a constant criss-crossing between a desperately strong sense of duty (without knowing why) to utter complacency and indifference between Kit and Port. They, along with Tunner, seemed rich, spoiled and ignorant. I couldn't understand their reactions to certain situations; such as Tunner's thoughts as to how his friends at home would interpret Port and Kit's disappearance, or Kit's reaction to Port's death, or Port's overreactions to Kit! Then again, the three of them were in an extreme environment. They wandered aimlessly in another world, void of Western reason, void of Western fairness, powerful, unyielding, and wholly unsympathetic.
I loved Bowles' constant symbolism throughout the book; such as Marhnia's retelling of the story of the women who wished for tea in the sahara, for which they got more than they bargained. Then there was the train dream that was so important for Port to interpret: "one's hesitation was an involuntary decision to refuse participation" in life. I think that this sentence pretty much described Port, Kit and Tunner. Again, they drifted much of the time, making decisions very much on a whim, living moment to moment, refusing to face the feelings deep in their conscience: Guilt, regrets, fear, etc. Finally, Port's stolen passport was a wonderful symbolism of his inevitable erasure from existence.
The last section of the novel was fantastic. Kit was forced to stop living according to omens in the sky, forced to stop living in fear. Up until this point, most of her living was vicarious through Port. Her journey with the men in the caravan was frightening and savage, yet it completely opened a long-hidden facet in her character. The irony was that it took her to the point of no return. Once she was "saved," it was sadly clear that no Westerner could possibly understand what she experienced, so it seemed fitting that Kit would just disappear into her own madness, or was it even madness?
Yes, I loved this novel--a gorgeous illustration of the cruel beauty of the desert and its culture. Such a seemingly benign environment was powerful enough to bring any arrogant Westerner physically and psychically, to his knees.
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on September 26, 2003
The Sheltering Sky may be the best book I ever read that nearly failed my 50-page rule. That's the rule I made up that allots a book that many pages to convince me to continue. If it fails to do so, it's back to the shelf or into a box -- sometimes to never be heard from again.
The Sheltering Sky is a good book, but it starts slow and never manages to evolve into any kind of a page-turner. But something I can't put my finger on wouldn't let me push it aside after those 50 pages, something I'm now very glad for.
The general premise of the story is simple: three Americans travel to Morocco in the wake of the Second World War to escape civilization and to find themselves. But the story is really an exploration into the way people react in a crisis and especially the way Americans interact with unfamiliar cultures.
It makes for a memorable if not effortless read, one of the popular 20th century books that deserve the label "classic" and that will compel you to confront your own morality, ethics, arrogance and pathos.
Though the book is dense and serious, it is not without a few subtle jokes: the two rival French army commanders, one of whom drinks only cognac and the other named d'Armagnac; the pathetic and entertaining Lyles; the unintentionally comic diplomat who tries to help Kit over the book's final pages.
I'll conclude with a tip: once you've finished The Sheltering Sky, go back and re-read the first chapter. It's beautifully written, but some of its insights are clear only in retrospect.
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on November 4, 2002
If you are expecting The Sheltering Sky to be nothing more than a travelogue of Morocco coupled with a forgettable story ... well, you'll be surprised. Perhaps more so than any other novel I've read Paul Bowles succeeds in expressing the most deep, complex human emotions into words. And he does so without making The Sheltering Sky a cumbersome read. The narrative flows rather well. Yet this book is not for avid readers of Oprah books; The Sheltering Sky is far more ambitious and disturbing than anything published nowadays. And as for a travelogue, this book will not enhance Morocco's tourist business.
The story? On the surface it is about a floundering American couple who, in the late 1940s, head to Morocco with hopes of having some fun (and salvaging their marriage). However as we soon learn, through deliciously subtle language, is that not only is their marriage having troubles but our couple have seemingly forgot about their reasons for living. Worse, this trip becomes a nightmare ( spoilers). Towards the end of the book we get an especially close look at the wife's spiritual death/re-birth (..this latter aspect might be offensive to conservative/religious folks).
As with the other reviewers I must say The Sheltering Sky is truly a special, memorable read. It is a challenging but not an especially difficult read. And I found the author's views of Arabs and foreigners to be relatively balanced. Or rather, no one race/nationality is portrayed better/worse at the expense of another.
Bottom line: one of the few books rightly called a modern classic.
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on February 18, 2003
The scope of Paul Bowles' *The Sheltering Sky* is two-fold: on the outside it is the tale of three young Americans traveling around North Africa after the World War. In a deeper level it is really a terrifying, exhilarating journey into the depth of human existence. Kit and Port Moresby's marriage was jeopardized. They came to the desert to escape from civilization, to escape from one another. The couple had never settled down in any one place, but rather they casually intended to move from one place to another in Africa in order to avoid places that had been touched by wars. The couple was also joined by a mutual friend Tunner and with whom emarked on a journey into the forbidden Sahara. What this book strikes me the most is the way Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture (as well as alien land). The very same apprehension at the end in a sense destroyed these Americans. As they emarked on their journey, further and further away from civilization, we can see how the cultural superiority of these fellow Americans dominate their thoughts-how they not trust the locals, the Arabs, the porters of town, the butler at inns. The journey forced these Americans to push the limits of human life. Each one of them was touched by the unspeakableemptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert. I don't want to give away the ending of the tale but this is definitely not a page-turner as you, the reader, will have to emark yourself on this journey and think about the limits of human reason and intelligence, about the powerlessness in controlling our fate. Beautiful prose, challenging reading. 4.2 stars.
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