Review of The President’s Gardens, Muhsin Al-Ramli

The President’s Gardens is a heartbreaking tragedy which spans generations, following the lives of Abdullah, Ibrahim and Tariq in a small village in Iraq.

The cyclical narrative unravels a story of loss, love and brutality, within which three men suffer greatly as well as their families. Before reading, Iraq was a country I knew very little about. Through Al-Ramli’s writing and Leafgren’s translation, however, I feel as if I have come to know the people of a country which has been savaged by wars and dictatorial regimes for many years. I felt Abdullah’s need for nihilism, Qisma’s desire for freedom and later remorse at wanting a new life so much, she forgot the merits of the one she so readily left behind, and my heart broke for Zaynab’s warmth and sacrifice.

Each story told and each character created had life woven into them, thanks to incredible storytelling and writing from both Al-Ramli and Leafgren. The novel is a triumph and I will no doubt seek out more of Al-Ramli’s work from this day forward.

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