At the time of writing I am forty-six years old. My name is Duro Kolak. Laura came to Gost in the last week of July....’
I didn’t read Aminatta Forna’s first, Orange Prize-listed, novel, The Memory of Love, but may now go back and read it on the strength of The Hired Man’s quality.
This novel is set in post-civil war Croatia. An abandoned house has been sold to a woman from England who arrives with her children for the summer and employs Duro as a handyman to do the repairs. Her appearance, and the restoration of the house awaken memories, not only in Duro, but among the villagers too. Unwelcome memories of a time when people as well as animals were hunted. It’s told purely from Duro’s point of view, as he watches and remembers, and becomes a pivotal person in the lives of the family, who are oblivious to the ripples they’re creating in the scarred community around them. Only the young daughter senses that things are not as idyllic as they seem and that the glorious scenery they inhabit has a dark history.
This is a beautiful, moving book, very well written. I wanted a slightly different ending, but I think the book has the ending that is right for it. Nothing can be resolved. Memories have to be lived with. Broken love affairs can rarely be mended. We can’t always have what we want.
Published by Bloomsbury