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The House of Sand and Fog

by André Dubus

The House of Sand and Fog
Andre Dubus III

I was given this book for Christmas and I had finished it by bed time on Boxing Day - I just couldn't put it down.

Set in California, this remarkable book has two narrators, and it is a testament to the skill of the author that he manages to get both 'voices' absolutely right and portrays two completely believable characters. One is a middle-aged Iranian man, Colonel Behrani, a former officer in the Shah's Air Force, the other, Kathy, a poor white woman and recovering alcoholic.

The story begins when Kathy's house is mistakenly seized for non-payment of tax and is bought at a knock-down price by Behrani. He sees it as an investment and a way of regaining some of the dignity and position in society he lost when he fled his homeland. For Kathy it represents the only stability within her chaotic life. Both are determined to get possession of the house and the resulting drama has all the power and inevitability of Shakespearean tragedy.

Using the central image of the house, Dubus explores themes of dispossession and cultural identity within a highly-charged and absorbing narrative that is both totally gripping and almost unbearably sad. I read this book before September 11 but, looking back, the themes it explores have become even more poignant and relevant in the light of ensuing events.

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