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The garden of Allah ( 1907 ) Novel by Robert Hichens

The garden of Allah

The garden of Allah Novel by Robert Hichens

After Domini Enfilden's mother had run away with another man, her Catholic father turned increasingly bitter and died an atheist. A brave young woman with a spiritual void, she goes alone to Africa 'the journey of the searcher who knew not what she sought.'

She meets Boris Androvsky, an awkward man obviously suffering from a painful secret, one which I guessed correctly pretty early on.

The Garden of Allah is the name the Arabs give to the desert. Domini is called to it, Boris comes to personify it for her and so she is drawn to him, despite how awkward and mysterious he is. She receives various warnings about him from a nobleman, a priest, and a sand-diviner.

All good writers enjoy waxing lyrical about the desert and Hichens luxuriates over the enervating sun, the endless desert sands, the shimmering salt crystals, the tanned, naked limbs of the Arabs, their soft, brown gazelle-like eyes, the belly dancers, the melancholic strains of the hautboy suggestive of 'the cry of longing, the wail of the unknown that draws some men and women to splendid follies and to ardent pilgrimages whose goal is the mirage.'

The atmosphere and promise of something richly tragic kept me interested over the first half of the book, but I kept thinking that the story had something more to offer than it eventually did. Boris was never the most interesting character and grew a little wearisome as the pages mounted up, the impact of his secret had been lost in the dunes long before it was finally revealed.

The second half was a tiresome trudge through pages and pages of fleeting impressions from a mind moving from captivity to freedom, coming to understand the difference between faith and love, considering the Christian idea of free will in contrast to Islamic fatalism.

Interesting themes stretched beyond the point of interest by characters far too precious in their self-absorption.

Review by Perry Whitford

Author: Robert Hichens
 Publication Date:1907

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