Saturday, August 31, 2013

Under the Moonlight

Footsteps resounded in the empty street. A couple of girls were passing by; they wouldn’t notice me. Few ever do.

The moonlight created strange shadows every night. It knew I was lonely and so it kept me busy till the sun came up and the world shone with hope.

I could hear their banging footsteps long before they came into sight. May be their stampeding steps weren’t so loud, but it sure felt and sounded like it. After all, the street was empty of everything and everyone else. It was past midnight and I think I heard them laughing. They must have been talking about some guy; it’s all people talk about these days.

I raised my head to meet the moon as it bathed me in its moonlight. We meet up every night. I think we like each other; a lonely sky-bound moon and lonely earth-bound flower.

This entry is for the VisDare #35 by Anonymous Legacy.
Story should be 150 words or less.

My story is 148 words.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thunder - Five-Sentence Flash Fiction

This piece is for the Five Sentence Flash FictionContest. The prompt is “Thunder”.


Daylight darkened gradually but quickly as black clouds loomed overhead. Dew stood still embracing the scent of freshly-cut grass. A soft breeze ruffled her hair; she won’t have to wait long now. A thundering explosion resounded in the distance growing louder as an approaching beast. The lightning struck introducing the rain and announcing the beginning of her elemental dance.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Weekly Online Flash Fiction Contests

So I’ve been working on compiling a list of the fun, free Flash Fiction contests I have come across over the past couple of weeks. Below is the list of contests that run every week. More info can be found at the link/blog of each contest. You can follow the authors/holders of these contests on Twitter to get updates as well.
I’ll be adding more whenever I can and keep you posted.

*If you hold a weekly/monthly 'free' online contest, please reply to this post with the link and details so I can add you to the list.



Prompt varies. Prize is e-badge, personalized winner’s page, and feature in “Sixty Seconds” post the following Wednesday. Possible feature in Monday “Flash Points” post.

100 words exactly and up to 2 entries per person (posted separately). (not working now)

Picture prompt and up to 100 words.

Starts Friday, ends Sunday. The Challenge: 1 song, 60 hours, 500 words.


145-155 words. Starts Saturday and ends Monday.


Cara Michaels' Race the Date: 
The challenge runs for 26 hours, from 0500 EST on Monday until 0700 EST Tuesday. Prompts are inspired by the different time zones. Word count: min. 100, max. 300 words. 

Monday Mixer

Hosts two challenges: a weekday challenge and a weekend challenge. Check the instructions for further details. 33-333 words.


Write up to a 500-word story using the provided opening sentence (includes an optional challenge).

The prompt will be a song.  A link to either a video or audio file will be posted each Tuesday. Challenge runs Tuesday through Thursday. Word count range: 300-700 words (no less than 300, no more than 700).


VisDare – The Visual Dare contest is a weekly picture-prompt challenge, where writers can exercise their pens. The challenge is to write a story in 150 words or less.

Jezri’s 55-Word Challenge
55 words or less. Posted Wednesday and ends on Thursday.


Five-Sentence Fiction (5SF) is “about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week there will be a one-word inspiration. Anyone wishing to participate will write a five-sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.

Thrush Thursday: 100-250 words

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cache a Predator - Book Review

Cache a Predator by Michelle Weidenbenner is a mystery novel dealing with injustice, loss, fear, love and psychology. Her mixing of the psychological element with mystery and crime adds to the richness of her novel.

Cache a Predator opens with a shocking scene, where an unknown person mutilates a dead man by cutting off his penis. This first part is narrated in the first person; and throughout the novel we get to see certain acts and scenes through the eyes of the mutilator; the “pecker-whacker”.

The novel also focuses on Brett Reed, a police officer in the town of Hursey Lake, who is divorced and whom the courts unjustly gave the custody of his five-year-old daughter, Quinn, to her alcoholic mother, Ali. We get to see glimpses of an alcoholic’s life, and how it affects them and all around them. We also meet counsellor Sarah Grinwald, whose troubled past has led her to taking up a job that allows her to take care of people. There is also the irony that despite her job, Sarah is not a good judge of character.

Cache a Predator has some beautiful imagery, which is seen in the opening lines of the novel. The description of a graveyard in particular has a dark but beautiful image. The way [The tombstones] were lined in rows, with husbands and wives side by side and children lying near their parents, made it look like a village, like shadows of square people hiding and watching without emotion. Like me.” (p.6)

Having a soft spot for alliteration and oxymoron, I particularly liked the phrase “sweet sickly scent” on p. 12.

Cache a Predator opens with a gruesome but powerful first chapter. Chapter 2, on the other hand, starts in a totally different place with new people .We meet Quinn, her cop father and her jobless, alcoholic mother. We are also introduced to the 'injustices' of the justice system and how it has favoured an alcoholic mother over a civil servant, a police officer, whose main fault is having a bad temper.

The novel takes the reader through the life of an alcoholic. Ali’s house is a dump with cigarettes and garbage littering the floor, and both her daughter and dog are unfed. Reflecting Brett Reed’s frustration with Ali’s behaviour, Weidenbenner uses another gruesome but highly creative image in He clenched his jaw, took a few eggs out of the fridge, and whisked them, beating them until they frothed over the sides of the bowl like the blood foaming in his veins.” (p. 19)

The so-called 'protective order' is highly ironic. Who is it supposed to 'protect'? The drunk mother? Or the neglected child? And from whom?!

Throughout the novel, Brett claims that his father had abandoned him when he – Brett – needed his support. It is my opinion that this fear of abandonment further drives Brett’s protective instincts towards his daughter. The reader is also given a lot of evidence of the opposite or that he has changed.

Weidenbenner maintains good tension and relief in her novel. She uses light comic scenes or discussions to ease her readers’ growing tension. An example is seen after the police, particularly Brett and his partner Clay, find Jake Hunter, the first mutilated victim. The whole scene though absurd and serious is funny. Jake tells the officers regarding his cut-off penis “Easy for you to say. Yours is intact.” Shortly after, Brett jokes, saying “Makes me want to wear iron briefs under lock and key.” (p. 34).

In chapter 5, the reader realises the reason the “pecker-whacker” does what he does. He does not choose his victims at random. And although one believes that it is a crime to mutilate another person, the reader cannot help but sympathise with this perpetrator, who is punishing sex offenders by cutting off their most prized organ; he is a criminal with a cause.

Sarah Grinwald is a counsellor, who works some children cases with Child Protective Services (CPS). Although she's supposed to remain unbiased, we see her biased against Quinn's cop father at first, but later changes that bias. Sarah, like many characters in this novel, has had a troubled past, which, at first, affects her judgement of Brett and we see her trying to fit him in her preconceived notions of bad fathers. However, she cannot help but notice the similarities between Quinn and her father and Ali's evidently unhealthy and unsafe environment.

In chapter 8, we learn a bit about Ali's past and upbringing. She's not an alcoholic without reason. Sarah explains to Brett how Ali views the world and how her past has affected her. Weidenbenner's use of psychology and past experiences is commendable as it gives reasons why each character is who they are and why they act the way they do.

It is ironic that justice system makes things more difficult for its civil servants when compared to regular citizens. The courts favour the mothers over the fathers, even if the former were unfit. Sarah knew the courts, and typically the mothers came out way ahead of the fathers. Unless they could prove Ali was unfit, Brett didn’t stand much of a chance.” (p. 123)

Narration in Cache a Predator shifts between the first person perspective of the “pecker-whacker” and the third person perspective, which either describes events or acts as a means to reveal certain things through the characters’ eyes. One scene is described once through Brett’s eyes and once through Sarah’s.

An important character, for me, in the novel is Brett’s partner, Clay. He is both the sense of reason and light humour in the novel. He is much calmer and more reasonable than his partner. He gives a sense of sanity to the story and acts as a reference for comparison with Brett.

The “pecker-whacker” obviously has bravery issues; it's clear that they’ve been bullied before, and they admitted to being sexually abused. In addition, there are some instances that reveal this person’s slightly childish tendencies. They are also convinced that all fathers are bad; at a certain point they cannot tell right from wrong and cannot distinguish between their father and Brett.

We also meet the abominable character of Mrs. Greer, Ali’s mother. She appears twice in the novel and always succeeds to infuriate both Brett and the reader. When Ali crashes her car and kills a young woman, Mrs. Greer tells Brett Some guy came by to visit her. Said she killed his fiancée and he’s going to sue her for everything she has. Said Ali took away his entire future.” She sniffled. “I told him he needed to talk to you. That you were responsible, not Ali.”

Quinn's ordeal, being kidnapped, reunites the Reed family and brings the community together.

I enjoyed the police-work and crime language used in Cache a Predator. It feels like reading a bit of CSI.

Weidenbenner’s use of imagery never fails to surprise and inspire the reader. Another particularly beautifully-crafted image is on p. 171; “Thoughts swirled in Brett's head like dead leaves in a tornado”. Another image is seen in the closing lines of the novel; The grass showed its face, reminding Brett of life and how things thaw, grow, and change.” – like people.

The dialogue in Cache a Predator is precise and nicely done conveying bits of relief when needed. The characters are realistic with no character being perfect. They all have the problems of their past which shape their present. The plot is held together well with a quick but good pace, and with good rise-and-fall in tension. There are, also, many interesting images throughout the novel.
I have given Cache a Predator an overall rating of 4.75 stars.

For more info, check out Michelle Weidenbenner on Goodreads.
Find her page on Facebook here and on Twitter here
Check out her website: and her book on Amazon here

Friday, August 23, 2013

Standing Strong

She is standing there; she’s always stood there, tall, proud, untiring, unwavering. Seasons come and go and she continues to stand in silence, watching the world pass and run, laugh and cry, live and die.

As the years turn to decades, change befalls all, her too.

She will change, she has changed. Time has made her a fearful sight, but beneath the tough timber lies her heart, growing wiser with every passing child, mother, father, hour, week, month and year.

Her bark is strong, unbreakable like her will. 

And so she lingers on… watching in silence.

96 words
This entry is for the Friday Fictioneers Contest

Holding On - Jezri's 55-Word Challenge

Once upon a time, I had a dream, a child of my own flesh and blood, mind and soul; a dream that came bearing joy and love, a dream that left as a light goes out. Now, I hold on to a memory and a lonely teddy bear.

- Story is 48 words and inspired by all 3 pictures.

I also had Jackie Barreau, her ordeal and poetry collection "Through a Mother's Eyes" in mind.
More about Barreau here
Check out my review of her book here

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by J.R.R. Tolkien - Book Review

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet and translated by the renowned J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a very long but very sophisticated medieval poem. It is divided into four chapter-like parts; each ending at a crucial point or high note, thus prompting the reader to carry on.

The tale begins at banquet of King Arthur in Camelot, where all the knights are eating and drinking merrily, when “there passed through the portals a perilous horseman” (Stanza 7, line 7, p. 28) and at his “hue men gaped aghast/in his face and form that showed;/ as a fay-man fell he passed/and green all over glowed”. (Stanza 7, lines 18-21).

Thus, the reader is introduced to the two main characters at the beginning of the story (Gawain is mentioned earlier in stanza 6 to be sitting at Queen Guinevere’s side). In other words, the reader does not have to wait long to be introduced to the two characters mentioned in the title.

The poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight does not rhyme – as opposed to the two other pieces in the book, namely Pearl and Sir Orfeo; however, there is the exception of the last six lines of each stanza. The poem is highly alliterative; most lines consist of at least three alliterating words, with some exceptions, such as:

“Very gay was this great man guised all in green”, (Stanza 9, line 1, p. 30).
Woven in with gold wire about the wondrous green”, (Stanza 9, line 11, p. 30).

The Green Knight presents a challenge to the court of Camelot and Sir Gawain takes it. According to the challenge, Gawain must, before the following New Year’s Day, seek out the Green Knight, who announces that he is the “Knight of the Green Chapel” and fight him.

The second part of the poem begins with Sir Gawain announcing that it is time for him to leave Camelot to fulfill the Green Knight’s challenge. There are several stanzas describing Sir Gawain’s attire and how sad the people of Camelot are to see him go. Then, he begins he quest to find the Green Knight of the Green Chapel. He journeys to lands known and unknown, meets with trolls and ogres (but none of these feats is described). Right before Christmas, he prays to God – and Jesus – to send him to a place where he can attend Christmas Mass. His prayer is answered and he arrives at a castle shortly afterwards.

Towards the end of the second part, Sir Gawain tells the lord of the house that he is on a quest to find the Green Knight and that he has only three days left to New Year’s Day. The lord of the house answers that he knows where this Green Knight lives and that Gawain has nothing to fear for the place he seeks is but two miles away.

Each part of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight poem ends on a mysterious and suspenseful note that gives a hint of what is to come in the following part. The second part ends with these lines: “Yet ere to bed they came,/he the bargain did oft recall;/ he knew how to play a game/that old governor of that hall” (Stanza 45, lines 18-21, p. 66).

The third part begins where the lord of the house and his men prepare for a hunt. Shortly after they leave, the lady of the house, who is often described as beautiful, enters Sir Gawain’s room and attempts to seduce him. She tells Gawain To my body you will welcome be/of delight to take your fill;/for need constraineth me/ to serve you, and I will.” (Stanza 49, lines 18-21). His response to her is rather awkward as he speaks of honour and being an unworthy knight. To me, it sounds like a strange response to a woman attempting to seduce a man. Moreover, it does not sound like a polite decline.

The whole of the third part is about the games Sir Gawain and the lord of the castle play during Gawain’s three remaining days. They agree that each would give the other what each has won during the day. The stanzas constantly shift between the hunts and what goes on in the castle between Gawain and the lady of house. On the second day, the lady of the castle visits Sir Gawain in his bed and attempts to seduce him once more.

“Here single I come and sit,/a pupil for your play;/come teach me of your wit,/ while my lord is far away” (Stanza 60, lines 24-28, p. 82). I am not sure how what the manner of a knight would be to this kind of approach; nonetheless, I find Sir Gawain’s preliminary response rather awkward. “In good faith” said Gawain “may God reward you!/ Great delight I gain, and am glad beyond measure…”, (Stanza 61, lines 1&2, p. 82). The poet is clearly criticising the lack of chastity and desire, however, the knight’s response or possibly the level of the language appears to be too high a level, making it look and sound rather strange, and which results in the whole situation sounding rather funny.

Twice the lord of the castle gives Sir Gawain the outcome of the hunt, and twice Sir Gawain returns them with kisses, which were his daily winnings from the lady of the castle. On the third day, however, the lady of the house goes to Sir Gawain’s room (again) and when all attempts to seduce him fail, she states that she is heartbroken and asks for a token of his to remember him by. She offers him a green belt; he refuses, but when she claims that whoever wears this belt cannot die, Sir Gawain decides to take it for his confrontation with the Green Knight, wherein he might be slain. On the third night, Gawain gives the lord of the castle three kisses, as the lady had given him earlier that day, but keeps the belt and does not mention where he got those kisses.

The fourth and final part begins with Sir Gawain finally setting out, with a guide, to seek out the Green Knight. He is given a chance to forsake this quest and return to his homeland, but as an honourable knight and a believer in God, he refuses. The guide would not go beyond a certain point for fear of the Green Knight. Thus, Gawain must continue the journey alone.

We finally meet the Green Knight along with an unexpected twist of events.

I will not divulge anymore here because it would give the surprise away. However, it is safe to say that the last few stanzas of the poem contain references to Morgana Le Fey and others from the Arthurian tales. These final stanzas wittingly connect the beginning and ending of the story and give a reason for the Green Knight’s strange challenge.

The final twist is like the leather that binds a book; it answers many questions that come to the reader’s mind whilst reading.

For some unknown reason, though occasionally for alliteration purposes, some of the references to Sir Gawain are written as Sir Wawain.

The poem is very long: 101 stanzas of not less than 20 lines each. I realised that it should be read at a single go or at short time intervals. It is preferable to at least make the stops at the end of each part. There are many boring parts, especially since we meet the Green Knight in the first few pages then we do not see him until the middle of the fourth part.

Tolkien’s style is fairly dominant in the poem (or at least that’s how I felt); the reader cannot tell who would have written the piece better – Tolkien or the anonymous poet. The verse is highly alliterative making it very musical along with the last rhyming six lines of every stanza.

Overall, I would give Tolkien a five-star rating for the strenuous effort undertaken to produce such a piece, but as for the content itself, I would give the original anonymous writer around 2.5 stars, for many parts were dull (that cannot be taken against the translator who cannot omit parts from the original work).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Through a Mother’s Eyes – Book Review

Through a Mother’s Eyes by Jackie Barreau is a collection of poems, quotes and pictures. It is published in memory of her two sons, Cody and Luke, who passed away at a very early age; it is also dedicated to her two daughters and to all parents who have lost their children to illness. It is a simple and heartfelt collection that deals with pain, loss, love, hope and moving forward.

The book’s cover and interior design are lovely. I enjoyed the simple pictures Barreau used; and above all, I loved the branches bearing red hearts with her sons’ initials. These branches and red hearts are used as decorative separators throughout the book; they separate one theme or main idea from the other, and occasionally include a quote.

The book opens with a very powerful quote by Moira Rogers that precedes the preface, thus setting the tone and content of the book. It is worth noting that Barreau has made a fine selection of quotes from many well-known writers like Maya Angelou and Kahlil Gibran, in addition to lesser-known and anonymous people.

The poems are short and mostly in free verse, though with some exceptions towards the end.

In her preface, Barreau states the reason for writing this collection and publishing it. She believes in the healing abilities of poetry and verse. One cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Jackie Barreau to write the introduction to this book and recount the memories and the dates that will forever be fixed in her heart and mind.
It is interesting that none of the poems has a title, leaving it to the reader and their emotions, and also leaving it to the verse itself to bear the full weight of the words.

Throughout her book, Barreau uses simple language to convey deep emotions and experiences.

The quotes, like the verses, are memorable; for instance, on p. 8: “Time may heal but the grief never leaves.” – Anonymous. This quote is followed by a poem in which Barreau directly mentions her son, Luke. (p. 9). The piece also handles the theme of reincarnation.

On p. 13, Barreau uses a painfully powerful image to describe the pain of losing a child; she describes it as threatening “to burn through the very core of you” – this line sends a shiver down my spine every time I read it. Similarly, p. 17 holds one of the strongest and most-heartfelt pieces in the book.

One must also note that the poems on p. 21 and 25 are simply spectacular owing to Barreau’s choice of words, use of oxymoron, contradiction and extended metaphor.
Barreau has not written this book to make others weep and mourn her loss, but to give other parents and other children hope, which is a main theme in this collection. Hope inspires and encourages/but above all creates a feeling of self-belief.” (p. 45).

Jackie Barreau cleanses her spirit through verse and quotes. The wording, throughout the book, is simple; it is as if Barreau is using this language so that if Cody and Luke were to ever read it, they would easily understand what she’s saying. Sincere emotions do not need verbose vocabulary, but rather need simple words to convey the deep meaning and the raw emotion they carry.

With this collection, Barreau immortalizes her sons Cody and Luke, and particularly with her line “immortal in death than in life itself,” (p. 21).

Through a Mother’s Eyes is a simple and touching collection that is meant to cleanse the soul and begin the process of moving forward with hope not with despair.

Overall rating 4 stars.

Works Cited:
Barreau, Jackie. Through a Mother's Eyes. Australia, 2013. Poetry Collection.

Connect with Jackie Barreau via Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

نيكروفيليا - شيرين هنائي - تعليق ونقد للكتاب

إن رواية نيكروفيليا للكاتبة شيرين هنائي ليست رواية مرعبة ولكنها رواية صادمة تتغلغل في أعماق الأمراض النفسية والإساءة إلى الأطفال وما قد يؤدي إليه ذلك إضافة إلى الطب النفسي وكيفية التواصل معهم، كما تناقش الرواية الموت بأنواعه.

إن رواية نيكروفيليا رواية جديدة من نوعها في الأدب العربي وقد تُصنف في فئة الإثارة النفسية. ولم استطع تركها، فعلى الرغم من أني أردت الوصول إلى نهايتها لم أرد الانتهاء منها، إنها رواية سوداء بكل المقاييس ولكنها أعجبتني.. جداً.

تدور أحداث رواية نيكروفيليا حول فتاة تدعى "منسية" تبلغ اثنى عشر عاماً وتعيش مع والدها وزوجة والدها اللذان يعاملنها أسوأ معاملة، فكثيراً ما نجد والدها (سيد) يضربها ويتمنى لو لم تلدها أمها. وتعاني منسية من مرض عادة ما يشخصه الأطباء على أنه أنيميا حادة حتى يراها الدكتور جاسر – بالصدفة – ويُشخص مرضها على أنه الأنوروكسيا وهو مرض نفسي خاص بفقدان الشهية. ومن هنا تبدأ الأحداث عندما يقرر الدكتور جاسر الذي يعمل على رسالة الماجستير الخاصة به استخدام منسية في بحثه.

منسية ليست فتاة عادية، حيث يتم وصفها بأن شكلها مرعب، وأنه أينما تذهب الطفلة ينظر إليها الناس ويشعرون بالرعب لأنها تبدو كالموتى على الرغم من عيناها الخضراوين. ويرى القارىء اختلاف العلاقة بين جاسر الذي يرى في منسية موضوع لبحثه وبين منسية التي تبدأ سن المرهقة وتجد في جاسر مثل الرجولة والجمال كما تجده مصدر إثارة لها. كما أن لدى منسية إعجاب خاص بالأموات وكل ما هو مشوه فنفسيتها مشوهة وهذا ما يفهمه جاسر في نهاية الرواية عندما يرى كتاباتها الخاصة بإثارتها بالموتى والعلاقات الجسدية التي تقوم مع ضحاياها من الجثث.
يتخلل الرواية أجزاء شعرية، عادة ما تكون بصوت منسية وفكرها – باستثناء نهاية الكتاب. وقد شعرت ببعض الاستغراب في بادىء الأمر من هذه الأجزاء الشعرية ثم وجدت أنها أساسية وممتعة وتضيف من قدرة الكاتبة على الإلقاء والتنويع في روايتها.

ويجدر بي ذكر إعجابي باختيار الكاتبة شيرين هنائي لأسماء شخصيات روايتها، فلكل اسم مدلول – بدرجة كبيرة - على الشخصية التي تحمل ذلك الاسم، ومن بين تلك الأسماء: منسية وجاسر وسيد (والد منسية) وفُتنة، وعلى سبيل المثال اختيار اسم "منسية" وهي الفتاة التي ينساها الجميع وفي نفس الوقت ينقلب حال كل من تدخل حياته ولا يستطيع سوى التفكير فيها، وتكاد تسبب الجنون لدى البعض.

وتحتوي الرواية على بعض النقد للمجتمع المصري حيث يتعامل الأطباء مع المرضى في المستشفيات الحكومية بمبدأ "على قد فلوسهم" وبالتالي لا يعطوهم الرعاية التي يحتاجونها. ويقوم الدكتور مرعي – عم جاسر - بهذا التعليق لنفسه في الفصل الثاني، فيفكر أنه كان من الممكن أن يعطي منسية رعاية أكثر إذا أتت لعيادته الخاصة.
ونادرة ما تتحدث منسية، فهي دائماً صماتة، حتى أنها لا تصرخ عندما تسكب الماء المغلي على أرجلها ولكن هذا بسبب خوفها من أن يضربها أبوها.

لم تكن منسية فتاة قبيحة أو مرعبة أو مريضة طوال حياتها، فقد كانت جميلة وذات جسم ممتلىء عندما كانت والدتها – الشخصية الوحيدة التي كانت تحبها – على قيد الحياة. وقد تلاشى جمال منسية مع وفاة والدتها.
وتحتوي رواية نيكروفيليا على أسلوب الارتجاع الفني (الفلاش باك أي إدراج الأحداث الماضية في أحداث أو محادثات في الحاضر)، ليس هذا فقط بل وتحتوي على وجود فلاش باك داخل فلاش باك آخر مما يضفي لمسة تشويق إلى الرواية.

في رأيي إن رواية نيكروفيليا رواية ممتعة وصادمة وجديرة بالحصول على أربع نجوم ونصف من خمس نجوم.

للنسخة الإنجليزية من هذه القراءة للكتاب، برجاء الضغط هنا.

For the English version of this book review, please click here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Necrophilia by Sherine Hanaay - English Book Review

The novella Necrophilia by Sherine Hanaay is not your average story; it does not fall in the horror genre but it is nonetheless an intensely dark novella. It delves deep into the hallways of psychology, child abuse and its consequences, maturity and love. It also handles death – in various ways.

Necrophilia mainly falls under the psychological-thriller genre; it is certainly new topic in Arabic literature, something the writer should be lauded for. 

Necrophilia is a book that I could not put down, and although I desperately wanted to know how it would end, some part of me did not want to reach that ending and was actually stalling to reach it. It is one of those books that makes the reader fear the ending whilst fearing the end in the sense of the conclusion. Necrophilia is by far one of the darkest pieces of literature I have ever read – and I loved it!

The novella is about 12-year-old called Manseya, who is constantly described as being a horrifying creature, lives with her father and stepmother and is neglected by both. Her father abuses her both verbally and physically. We often see her father – Sayed – wishing that she were never born or that she would die. Manseya suffers from a disease, which the doctors have often diagnosed as severe anaemia, until she meets Dr. Gasser, who diagnoses her disease as Anorexia, the psychological disease of severe loss of appetite. After this encounter, Dr. Gasser decides to use Manseya in his thesis for a master’s degree.

Manseya is at the early stages of maturity and here we meet her friend – if she can be called so – Fotna.

There is some criticism of Egyptian society, where doctors in government hospitals do not treat patients to the utmost of their abilities simply because these patients are poor and pay little money. Thus, they receive as little service as the money they pay. Should they go to these doctors’ private clinics, and pay more, they would get better service and care. Dr. Marei, Gasser’s uncle, makes that note to himself in chapter two.

One of the prominent features in Manseya is her silence; she rarely talks. In chapter 3, Manseya spills boiling water on her legs, and instead of screaming in pain she remains silent for fear of being beaten up by her father.

Manseya has not always been hideous and anorexic. She was beautiful once, when her mother was alive. Her beauty fades when, her mother, the only person who has ever loved her and cared for her dies.

The novella begins with a horrifying description of her as being extremely thin with protruding blue veins. Wherever she goes, people stare at her and at her odd figure. The reader sees a gap between the way Gasser sees Manseya and the way she sees him; Gasser views her as a topic for his thesis, something that will make him rise above all others, whereas Manseya sees Gasser as the emblem of manhood and beauty; he rouses her femininity. Manseya also has an odd fascination with all that is deformed, mutilated or dead; it arouses her and reflects her mutilated psychology. Gasser makes this discovery at the very end of the novella; he realises that Manseya is sexually aroused by corpses and has in fact performed several of those fantasies.

Necrophilia contains several poetic parts, in which the speaker is usually Manseya, with the exception of the last section of the book. At first, I was a bit confused by the poetry amidst the prose, but then I realised that the poems form an integral part of the story. Not only that, but they also give variety and artistry, which should be lauded in favour of the writer.

There is, however, an oddity with the ending. I did not quite get why Manseya would assume that striking someone with a deathly blow would keep them ‘alive’ for her. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers).

It is worth noting that the writer’s choice of names is both interesting and significant, as several names reflect their characters. For instance, “Manseya” means ‘forgotten’, “Sayed” means ‘master’, and “Fotna” means ‘sexually attractive or arousing’. It is also worth noting that there is a lot of irony in the writer’s choice of “Manseya”, for although she is often forgotten or rather neglected by her family, the moment she exits a person’s life, that person cannot forget her and is likely to be driven to madness in thinking of her.

Not only does Necrophilia encompass the flashback technique, it also contains an extended flashback within a flashback; which is quite interesting.

Although the book does not contain horrendously gory details, it is nonetheless not for the faint of heart simply because of the abuse and dark details it contains.

Necrophilia is as enjoyable as it is shocking.

A 4.5-star rating is in order.

For the Arabic review of this book, click here.