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Men Don't Cry

"An enthralling, ingeniously comic character-driven portrait of North African diasporic life and cultural conflicts in contemporary France - unreservedly brilliant."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry is an absolute triumph - wise, funny, enthralling, thought-provoking. At its heart, the novel explores the age-old (and sharply pertinent) pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case generational and family conflict between Algeria and France. It’s an incredibly powerful commentary on a very real conflict in contemporary France, perfectly summarised when the novel’s protagonist comments that “to be fully French you have to deny part of your heritage, part of your identity, part of your history, part of your beliefs, and yet when you succeed in achieving all that, you’re still reminded of your origins…So what’s the point?

Men Don’t Cry is also a superb coming-of-age story that sees an awkward young man, Mourad, find his feet, and his voice. He was born in Nice to Algerian parents, the youngest of three children. His eldest sister Dounia, a devoted feminist, leaves home without looking back, while his middle sister marries, has kids, and is happy. Mourad is between the two - neither desperate to leave home, nor especially looking to settle down. He’s insular, doesn’t have many friends, so he’s there when his dad has a hugely debilitating stroke. He’s there when his hypochondriac mum needs to vent (which she does a lot, about anything and everything, to comic and poignant effect). But then the time comes for Mourad to leave home too - he has a teaching job in Paris. A few weeks into his new post, he reconnects with Dounia, now a public figure feminist activist who’s stepped onto the political ladder. Her interviews in high profile publications and the book she writes about her upbringing and experiences rile Mourad. For example, she describes their dad as “authoritarian, change-averse, illiterate.” But, nevertheless, it’s Mourad who bridges the chasm between Dounia and the rest of the family, not least at the unexpected, heartrending end of this remarkable novel.

Mourad’s voice is engrossing, and feels unfailingly authentic. On that note, deep appreciation must go to the novel’s award-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone - rendering Mourad’s voice so dazzingly into English, is a tremendous achievement. The result is a novel that reads like a dream - vibrant, nuanced, thought-provoking, funny, and shot-through with Mourad’s wit.

Joanne Owen

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