Moving from revolutionary Zanzibar in the 1960s to restless London in the 1990s, Gravel Heart is a powerful story of exile, migration and betrayal, from the Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Paradise
Salim has always believed that his father does not want him. Living with his parents and his adored Uncle Amir in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors.
It is the 1970s and Zanzibar is changing. Tourists arrive, the island's white sands obscuring the memory of recent conflict: longed-for independence from British colonialism swiftly followed by bloody revolution. When his father moves out, retreating into dishevelled introspection, Salim is confused and ashamed. His mother explains neither this nor her absences with a strange man; silence is layered on silence.
When glamorous Uncle Amir, now a senior diplomat, offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London for college. But nothing has prepared him for the biting cold and seething crowds of this hostile city. Struggling to find a foothold, and to understand the darkness at the heart of his family, Salim must face devastating truths about himself and those closest to him - and about love, sex and power.
Evoking the immigrant experience with unsentimental precision and profound insight, Gravel Heart is a powerfully affecting story of isolation, identity, belonging and betrayal, and is Abulrazak Gurnah's most dazzling achievement.
[A] captivating storyteller, with a voice both lyrical and mordant, and an oeuvre haunted by memory and loss. His intricate novels of arrival and departure . reveal, with flashes of acerbic humour, the lingering ties that bind continents, and how competing versions of history collide (Guardian)
Gurnah is a master storyteller (Aminatta Forna Financial Times)
Gurnah writes with wonderful insight about family relationships and he folds in the layers of history with elegance and warmth (The Times)
Exile has given Gurnah a perspective on the "balance between things" that is astonishing, superb (Observer)
Gurnah etches with biting incisiveness the experiences of immigrants exposed to contempt, hostility or patronising indifference on their arrival in Britain (Spectator)
Gurnah writes with quiet humour and great affection about pre-revolutionary Zanzibar and its people . Gurnah writes beautifully, with the satisfying assurance of someone who knows how to achieve his effects without undue fuss but with absolute precision (Daily Telegraph)
Gurnah evokes his world in poetic prose which is pure and lucid (Guardian)
His prose is elegant and evocative (Mail on Sunday)
Gurnah has laid powerful imaginative claim to the eastern seaboard of Africa (Independent)
Gravel Heart is one of the beautiful novels that lingers in the mind long after reading. Gurnah writes about the clash of worlds with such pathos and elegance. (Amanda Foreman)
Glittering...Each work is different from the last, yet they build into a powerfully evocative oeuvre that keeps coming back to the same questions, in spare, graceful prose, about the ties that bind and the ties that fray (Judith Woods Daily Telegraph 2017-04-29)
Entertainingly intertwines migration and a tale of family drama ... Gurnah has rightly been praised for his masterful storytelling ... An emotive tale about betrayal, families and the East African diaspora (Theresa Munoz Sunday Herald 2017-05-14)
A colourful tale of lie in a Zanzibar village, where passions and politics reshape a family ... Expect echoes of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (Jeffery Burke Mail on Sunday 2017-05-14)
Throughout, the elegance and control of Gurnah's writing, and his understanding of how quietly and slowly and repeatedly a heart can break, make this a deeply rewarding novel (Guardian)
The measured elegance of Gurnah's prose renders his protagonist in a manner almost uncannily real . Gurnah's portrayal of student immigrant life in Britain is pleasingly deliberate and precise, and also riveting . Even the minor characters in this novel have richly imagined histories that inflect their smallest interactions - one of the loveliest pleasures of this book, and a choice that makes its world exceptionally full (New York Times)
Moving from revolutionary Zanzibar in the 1960s to restless London in the 1990s, Gravel Heart is a powerful story of belonging, betrayal and exile, from the Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Paradise
About the Author
Abdulrazak Gurnah is the author of eight novels: Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring Silence, By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize), and The Last Gift. He is a Professor of English at the University of Kent, and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016. He lives in Canterbury.