“Welcome to Paradise” by Mahi Binebine (Morocco)
Synopsis and Review
“Welcome to Paradise”: a Difficult but Inescapable Journey
“Welcome to Paradise” opens with a group of people waiting on a beach for the signal to start their crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar for the shores of Spain. They are a disparate group but all are seeking the ‘promise of paradise’. Kacem Judi has escaped from the civil war in Algeria. Nuara, whose husband hasn’t been in touch since moving to France months before, travels with her newborn child. Pafadnam and Yarcé have endured much en route north from Mali. Yussef, a Berber from the Middle Atlas, has lost his whole family in strange circumstances. Aziz, the young narrator, and his cousin Reda, are severed, in different ways, from their families in southern Morocco. They share a longing to escape and a readiness to risk everything. The only person who can help them is Morad, the ‘European Deportee’ turned trafficker.
The subject of human trafficking and illegal emigrants is highly topical, making the story all the more powerful. Members of the Book Club thought the book was beautifully written, evoking vivid images. The writing was poetic in many passages, interwoven with humour, which gave the book grace and eloquence. The members were moved by each of the characters’ stories, although some of them felt that the author tried to condense too much in a relatively short novel. However, the characters were described in such a way that they remained decidedly human and were not tainted by any moral judgements. In all, the members found it a hugely enjoyable read, rating it 8 out of 10, the highest score of the season.
Nicola’s Book Club reading list
Season 2 (Sep 2005 – Jan 2006)
“The News from Paraguay” by Lily Tuck (U.S.)
“Welcome to Paradise” by Mahi Binebine (Morocco) *
“The Book of Proper Names” by Amélie Nothomb (Belgium)
“Some Prefer Nettles” by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japan)
“Black Waltz” by Patricia Melo (Brazil)
* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur