Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages
Siobhan Fallon
Published June 27, 2017
A searing debut novel from the award-winning author of You Know When the Men are Gone, about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that's about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie's become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret's toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie's boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn't Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret's apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend's whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret's disappearance.- from Goodreads
Cassie and Margaret are military wives living in Jordan in 2011.  After getting into a minor car accident, Margaret goes to the police station, leaving her son Mather with Cassie.  After several hours, she still hasn't returned, leaving Cassie to wonder where she is and what has happened to her.  When Cassie finds Margaret's diary, she realizes Margaret has been keeping many secrets from her.

Most of the story takes place over the course of one night, after Margaret has gone to the police station.  Excerpts from Margaret's diary fill in many blanks for both the reader and Cassie, as we learn more about Margaret's short time in Jordan and Cassie finds out what Margaret really thinks of her. 

The friendship between Margaret and Cassie is at the center of the story.  While the two women have some things in common (both are having issues in their marriages), they are very different from one another.  Cassie, having lived in Jordan for two years, feels she knows the area and culture well; she is very much a rule follower and takes seriously the parameters set up by the embassy.  At times, though, she seems overly suspicious of people around her.  She is controlling and prickly and comes across as almost desperate for a friendship with Margaret, or anyone really.

Margaret, however, is more of a free spirit.  She is very open with new people and wants to fully experience life in Jordan.  At times I couldn't tell if she was willfully ignorant or just na├»ve - no matter how times Cassie warned her about her behavior or clothing choices, especially around men, Margaret didn't seem to get it.  She didn't seem to understand the ramifications her actions could have, or maybe she didn't really believe anything bad would happen, that Cassie was just being overly cautious.  I wasn't necessarily surprised by what happens to Margaret at the end of the book, but the route it took to get there and what was revealed did surprise me. 

The setting of Jordan was a unique one for me; I don't read too many stories set in the Middle East.  Fallon did a great job in educating the reader on the nuances of the culture and people of Jordan, most likely inspired by her own experience living there as a military wife.

4 stars

16 comments:

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    1. It really was, I think you would enjoy it.

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  2. I just recently came across this one, so what a great coincidence to see your review here! This sounds really interesting--I think it sounds like something that I would love. So glad to see you enjoyed it, and great review!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you love it if you do read it!

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  3. I can’t think of a book that I have read set in the MIddle East. I would like to read this one just to learn more about the culture. Thanks for putting this on my radar.

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    1. You're welcome! It was definitely something new for me in terms of the setting, and it was pretty eye-opening.

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  4. You have intrigued me describing the women at the centre of this story, especially Margaret and whatever she gets into. Wonderful review!

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  5. Fallon's book of short stories, You Know When the Men Are Gone, was a favorite a few years ago. This sounds like another winner. I'll be reading it sometime in 2018 for sure. Thanks for the review.

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    1. I would highly recommend this one - I hope you love it!

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  6. This has a beautiful cover! I’m glad you enjoyed it, I read many books about the Middle East and am always open to new suggestions!

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    1. I really enjoyed this one, so I hope you enjoy it if you read it!

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  7. This sounds so interesting!! I like the idea of the relationship of these women and loe the setting since I haven't read anything set there yet. Great review!

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    1. Thank you! It was a new setting for me, too, and it was just fascinating.

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  8. This sounds fascinating. I'm pretty sure I've never read a book set in the Middle East so that aspect of it definitely appeals to me, and I of course love books that deal with friendships/relationships between women. I'll definitely be adding this to my TBR. Great review!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!