18 March 2009

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (Gil Courtemanche)

Earhart is in the process of moving house so I'm sorry to say you'll have to endure my nonsensical ramblings with no breath of Sydney fresh air for awhile.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali tells the story of Valcourt, a French-Canadian filmmaker who falls in love with a young woman whilst living in Rwanda in 1994. Considering Courtemanche lived in Rwanda and is also a documentary filmmaker I would suggest this novel is at least partly autobiographical. The love story is told amongst the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus, with ultimately both the romance and drama overshadowed by the widespread horror of the AIDS virus.

The novel was a little hard to get into at first... I'll admit to wishing Don Cheadle would pop up somewhere and relieve the tension. And perhaps I went into reading it with a lazy attitude after reading the endorsement from the Sunday Times: "...you must read it- or allow it to read you." Awesome, I thought. I'll go up a few IQ points AND I don't even have to try, I'll just sit back and allow the book to read me.

Yah, didn't happen.

However, I'm glad I persevered. It really is a stunning piece of writing and the love story is subtle, honest and realistic. The subject of AIDS is always sobering but it's not outright depressing in this novel, rather Courtemanche attempts to give us an accurate portrayal of a nation suffering, without the melodrama. Basically every thought in the novel is geared towards sex or death and there are some agonisingly affecting moments. This quote in particular stuck with me: "Here, Valcourt was beginning to understand, dying was simply one of the things you did one day."

I feel like someone should send a copy of this novel to good old Benedict XVI. Or any novel about AIDS in Africa. Or a few lines jotted down on the back of a used envelope detailing the function of condoms.
Rating: 8/10.
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