B as in Beirut
by Younes, I. H.
The four interlocking narratives that make up this extraordinary novel belong to four women who live in the same apartment building in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. There is Lilian with her two children, desperate to emigrate, with or without her husband. Warda cannot recover from the loss of her daughter, and finds that no matter how many times she goes over it, the story of her life no longer makes sense. Camilia has returned to Beirut to make a film about her former homeland, but becomes irrevocably caught up in its violence. Maha remains in the building even as her family, her neighbours, her city, and her country fracture around her. As the war continues each day, unending, divisions between past and present begin to break down. Younes’ intimate, haunting attention to these women’s lives creates an unforgettable portrait not only of her characters but of the nature of war. Here, loss is the city’s most constant resident, and its story will inevitably overcome all the rest.