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I would give it 3.5 stars because the writing was so fantastic such rich descriptions of people, places, feelings I appreciated the chance to read about Ethiopia and its history and the facets of Islam I also like the theme of discovering a sense of self and identity The book was just kind of boring There was no real climax or inciting incident the story just dragged along. Gibb depicts the life of a ferengi foreign white European woman Lilly living as a devout Muslim in two settings Harar, Ethiopia and London, England Through this character s eyes, we learn about people in this African nation, struggling with day to day tasks amid political, economic, cultural and religious tensions both in their native country and abroad as refugees The author creates a number of compelling characters who inhabit a variety of positions in the spectrum of the Muslim experience male female, conservative progressive, westernized traditional, monied poor, etc It s a good book for showing that the Islam world is not monolithic The book as strong literary merits as well The auther does a good job using fractured chronology to reveal Lily s Ethiopian past to explain her current conflicts hopes as experienced in London as a refugee Gibb weaves in themes about love, national identity, religious fidelity, and family structure The strongest image employed is a recurring use of crushing spices with a mortar and pestle to create a rich aroma implying that Lilly and others still emit sweetness and spice despite or because of the conflict in their life I enjoyed the artistry and the information All Ethiopians may not agree with the depiction of their homeland in the same way that a couple of characters take exception to Sir Richard Burton s depiction of Africans in his writings Nevertheless, I have a complex view of the country as a result of Gibb s novel. @DOWNLOAD EPUB ⚣ Sweetness in the Belly ⚡ Like Brick Lane And The Kite Runner, Camilla Gibb S Widely Praised New Novel Is A Poignant And Intensely Atmospheric Look Beyond The Stereotypes Of Islam After Her Hippie British Parents Are Murdered, Lilly Is Raised At A Sufi Shrine In Morocco As A Young Woman She Goes On Pilgrimage To Harar, Ethiopia, Where She Teaches Qur An To Children And Falls In Love With An Idealistic Doctor But Even Swathed In A Traditional Headscarf, Lilly Can T Escape Being Marked As A Foreigner Forced To Flee Ethiopia For England, She Must Once Again Confront The Riddle Of Who She Is And Where She Belongs Lilly is the only child of a couple of wandering, hippy English parents born in Yugoslavia, breast fed in the Ukraine, weaned in Corsica, freed from nappies in Sicily and walking by the time we got to the Algarve In Morocco, she s left in the care of the Great Abdal while her parents go jaunting, only to learn she is suddenly an orphan Raised by the Great Abdal, a muslim Sheikh, and Mohammed Bruce Mahmoud, a fiery haired ex British Muslim convert, she found that once I was led into the absorption of prayer and the mysteries of the Qu ran, something troubled in me became still When she is 16, she and her friend Hussein make a pilgrimage to the city of Harar in Ethiopia, to the compound of Sheikh Jami Abdullah Rahman, direct descendent of a saint On route, they stay at the Emperor of Ethiopia s palace, courtesy of a letter of introduction from Mohammed Bruce Because Lilly is farenji white , and the Sheikh is very racist as is everyone else she encounters there , she is separated from Hussein and sent to live with the sister of the Sheikh s third wife, Noura, an Oromo, while Hussein stays to be one of his disciples Lilly learns the language of the Hararans, who are not black but consider themselves Arab, who use the local Oromo population as serfs and combine old tradition with Islam She falls in love with Aziz, a young local doctor, half Hraran, half Sudanese, almost an outcast because he is black He introduces her to a less all pervasive interpretation of Islam, and politics Famine strikes the north while the Emperor has cavier flown in from Europe for his own dinner Unrest stirs, the soldiers take over in the name of communism and quickly put in place a military dictatorship Lilly escapes being rounded up with anyone else who has ties to the Emperor, though she never met him, and makes it to London where she becomes a nurse and, with her friend Amina, sets up an office to keep track of all the refugees, uniting them with family members, all in the hope of finding Aziz s name on a list.I loved this book It s become one of my favourites, easily so, and strangely enough, given the subject matter I would even call it a comfort read It s a dark story yet I did not find it depressing for a second, due to the quality of the writing Gibb has a light touch, and holds back from telling us what to feel or how to react reading this book was like feeling a breeze against your cheek Even brutality is rendered bittersweet through the light touch of Gibb s word choices It is never saccharine, never melodrammatic, and opens a door into a world few of us have any idea or understanding of.A couple of things I didn t understand why did Lilly and Hussein stay in Ethiopia, and how did she manage to get through nurse training in England when she d had no formal education Minor quibblesThere are some brutal moments in the story Most especially disturbing is the scene of female circumscion, which did make me turn green, riveted though I was I d seen it on an SBS documentary years ago, the first time I learned that it happened at all it is illegal, but still practised in many places The Ethiopan sections are set in the 1970s Lilly is 19 when she flees , which is not so very long ago They believed it made women pure, that it kept them from being on heat , and that they would never get a husband if they weren t infibulated It s quite terrifying As Aziz points out, though, it s not actually an Islamic tradition.But there is a beautiful, delicate balance between the horrific traditions and superstitions, Islam and a modern way of thinking Lilly, as narrator, is never shaken from her beliefs, though she has occasion to question her own nature She shows a human side to Islam, a side as familiar as Christianity what I mean is, her religion never comes across as weird, scary, alien etc The similarities between Islam and Christianity come through clearly I also liked the truer understanding of jihad, as an inner struggle with the flaws of your own nature, not with another person, country or culture.It is the way this book is written, and Lilly s voice, that make it strangely warm and comforting, as well as humorous at times , philosophical, world weary, honest, enlightening, touching It is such a human story, and I especially find it interesting that it closely follows the lives of women in Africa and the refugees crowded into the council estate flats in London It is through the daily lives of women, who worked and cooked and sang and found husbands for their children and kept the old traditions alive, that the city of Harar really comes alive.There is also insight into the world of refugees and the communities they establish in other parts of the world While the author confesses she took some liberties with geography and history, still this book fleshed out a country and a people who were only ever, in my mind, images of black skeletons staggering through a desert, thanks to the News Despite the uglier moments, the uglier side to their world and way of life, the characters were so well drawn that I felt like I knew them personally I think that this quality, above anything else, is what makes this a comfort read for me I could easily read this many times, and get out of it each time. Honestly i just finished the book and the one thing i can say is that it has enlighten something within me and this passage has left a strong impression within me For all the brutality that is inflicted upon us, we still possess the desire to be polite to strangers We may have blackened eyes, but we still insist on brushing our hair We may have had our toes shot off by a nine years old, but we still believe in the innocence of children We may have been raped, repeatedly, by two men in a Kenyan refugee camp, but we still open ourselves to the ones we love We may have lost everything, but we still insist on being generous and sharing the little that remains We still have dream When we wake up to a fresh morning sunlight and forget what went wrong the other day and hoping the new day might bring something good or living worthy, i felt that in those following lines.I respect Camilla Gibb for her research on Islam This book is not about religion, but i honor her for her hard work on finding out about the culture, religion and about it s people. Sweetness in the Belly is the moving and heart warming story of Lilly Abdal Told in her own words, it adds to it a special liveliness, directness and authenticity Camilla Gibb has succeeded in creating a rich and detailed account of the life of a young woman caught between cultures and identities It is also a love story at different levels Her narrative alternates between periods during the four dramatic years in Ethiopia and those during ten years in London, after leaving Ethiopia in 1974, at the end of Emperor Haile Selassi s reign Gibb s novel is fast moving and particularly compelling in its portrayal of Lilly s life in the holy city of Harar At the same time, she is conveying in depth insights into the respective realities there and in England and establishes the religious and cultural context that surround the heroine with great subtlety and credibility Alternating with accounts of her time in Harar, as she grows into an adult 1970 1974 , Lilly narrates her life in London, beginning fifteen years after leaving Ethiopia Now working as a nurse and living in a poor housing estate, she remains an outsider who does not fit into British reality Committed to preserve her religion and her Ethiopian culture, she befriends Amina, her Ethiopian refugee neighbour and creates an oasis of home around them While Amina and her family adjust and to the western lifestyle, Lilly clings to the memories of her previous life and the people in it But developments force her to reassess and look into the future rather than hanging on to the past Will she be able to do it Gibb s rendering of the East African refugee scene is as realistic as her portrayal of conditions in Harar Her novel is grounded and enriched by her thorough research and personal experiences with the cultures and the places she evokes Ethiopians went through famine and deprivations during the early 1907s, a time that ended in the uprising against and eventual removal of the Emperor Gibb brings this context into the novel without overburdening the reader She finds a convincing balance between the personal and the general keeping the book a page turner from beginning to end i hesitate to outrightly use terms like predictable and cliche, but this book is rife with common now afflictions third world vs first world transition, cross cultural spirituality, etc that reveal quite a lot about the story s eventual outcome while the story might be about the journey than the destination, none of the revelations or realizations really sneak up on or enlighten the reader. This story was so well written I had to check the front cover a couple of times that it was indeed A Novel The story switches back and forth in time, and the author does it so well I was easily able to read without the dissonance I often feel with the technique The story of a white Muslim woman in Ethiopia during the times of great changes, this story is also a scrabble lover s dream Words like QAT, SUQ, MIRQANA, and are used throughout I won t have any trouble remembering those words during my scrabble games I really need to revise my ratings, as this is one of my all time favourites, up there with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks This is a work of fiction that reads like a colourful symphonyartfully composed and flowing with notes both wistful and poignant Ms Gibb transports the reader into the dusty streets of Africa, squatting in the dirt to dry chillies, or chewing qat to get high Then readers struggle along with the characters in their daily grind as deposed refugees in Thatcher s England, amidst a population of Pommies growing increasingly resentful of their presence.I loved this story, the way it is told from a truly unique perspective that of a young girl orphaned when her hippy parents are killed, and left to be raised by another ex pat Brit who has found roots in Islam and Morocco, and a revered guardian in the Great Abdal Despite the noble efforts of these two men who truly oversee her protection and education as a child, Lily finds herself as a teen in Ethiopa, with few prospects and has to eke out a meagre existence as a teacher to poor children, while she tries to fit into the local community who continue to view her white face with suspicion and derision.Political intrigue becomes political unrest, becomes manipulated famine to control the masses and those with any rumoured connection to the Emperor are sent to flee for their lives Lily is one of the many who have to do just that, leaving the country she calls home, and her one and only love behind He is the western minded doctor Aziz, who has had his own battles living in Harar with his black Somali appearance.Her first love stays in her heart for many years, and is partly what drives her passion for matching refugee families with other relatives who trickle into England via various parts of Europe over the next decade Sweetness in the Belly is a journey that will make you believe you were there. The book was well written, and I liked how it jumped between time periods But I just didn t feel any pressure to keep reading it was like a story of the life of book with no climax or hook just kinda ended Amazing how she was able to completely depict Ethiopia in the pages though I read this after coming back from there and I could completely picture the streets and imagine the characters Another caveat though her descriptions of Islam were not really accurate much of the practices there are cultural and span Muslim and Christian communities I found that in Ethiopia, unlike the impression from the book, Muslim and Christian communities live in harmony with each other.