2011 · Book Reviews · Fiction · Grief · Travel · War

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, James Meek

We are Now Beginning Our DescentPublished: 2008 by Canongate Books | Pages: 302

‘The message was short. I want to see you now. I want you to come to me, it doesn’t matter how late it is, and tell exactly what you want from me. 

At the dawn of the twenty-first century Adam Kellas finds himself hurled on a journey between continents and cultures. In his quest from the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan to the elegant dinner tables of north London and then the marshlands of the American South, only the memory of the beautiful, elusive Astrid offers the possibility of hope.’

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent is a novel that I was obliged to study on my Contemporary Writing module at university. It took a while for me to get into this book, as the context and themes of the novel are all very current to the news everyday, and I tend to read books as an escapist hobby rather than a depiction of the reality of which I’m currently living in. When one puts that aside, the novel is rather good.

The text has thematics such as war, long distance love, obsession and trauma. Our protagonist Adam Kellas is a brilliant character because he develops along with the novel. Due to the clever opening of the novel, the reader is immediately thrown into the centre of a young afghan person’s life, I didn’t realise that this wasn’t actually happening but was the musings of Adam. We discover he is a reporter out in the Middle East who is also aspiring to write a novel. Due to the opening, the reader is immediately put into the mind set that is needed to really get behind the meaning of this text.

I believe that Meek is initially making us realise and think about the effects of seeing the on goings in the middle east from an outsiders point of view, but due to his friend from the country we are also given the perspective of a person who is actually from the Middle East. By bringing Astrid into the novel, Meek is not only creating a sort of ‘relief’ character for the reader, but once again a different dimension, as Astrid’s character also shows us how even though there are this incredibly horrendous things occurring abroad, she also has her own problems.

Overall this book was a good read, but I found it rather difficult to keep flicking between the various settings of the UK, the Middle East and the USA. I also question the realistic quality of Adam’s decision to just jump on a plane one night and go to Astrid. Yes, I realise novels are supposed to be escapist, but one questions that idea in this scenario due to the rest of the novel seeming to be so realistic and accurate.

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