This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
Author Alain Miles gritty and authentic novel, The Lebanese Troubles, has one flaw, a weak and unlikable protagonist.
It’s the mid 1970’s and Richard has come to Beirut to teach English and has brought his wife, Claire, and baby along with him.
They become involved with a group of ex-pats and other westerners that include his colleague at the school, Dave; an American journalist, Lawrence; and his Palestinian girlfriend, Monique.
Shortly after they arrive civil war breaks out and things begin to deteriorate socially, professionally, and personally.
Lawrence suggests Richard and his family move in with him and Monique because their neighbourhood is safer. The two couples are attracted to each others partner and the close proximity only exacerbates the situation. It culminates with Richard walking out and moving in with Dave.
As the “troubles” worsen Richard’s teaching position is terminated, but the war appears to offer up other lucrative opportunities, which Dave is eager to introduce to his vulnerable and the naïve friend.
This book is well written and the description of Beirut is terrific, the setting becomes a character onto itself and a significant one. The description of war – mostly boring then suddenly deadly, sounds authentic as are the attitudes of the civilians – coping, waiting and hoping it will end when it only gets worse, much worse.
Characters are fully developed from the oily and smooth Amin, the impatient and practical Dave, the seductress Monique, the proper English Claire, and the adventurous larger than life Lawrence.
However, author Alain Miles, chooses to make his main character, Richard, unlikable. He has poor judgment in people and events. When given an opportunity he screws up. He’s like kid with no self-confidence always trying too hard and coming off looking stupid. The problem is he knows it and that makes him try harder, the end result he looks even stupider.
But mostly Richard does nothing. He never acts, he equivocates, vacillates, over thinks everything. He feels responsible for events he hasn’t influenced yet won’t take responsibility for his wife and his baby son. Does the character evolve over the course to the novel? Yes, but not for the better.
It’s hard to get behind a character so weak, indecisive and naive, but what kept me reading was the authentic description of civil war, the many unique and well-defined major and minor characters and the visceral, seemingly genuine portrayal of Beirut – it’s traits, qualities and even the philosophy of it’s people.
The ending feels inevitable and in that way is satisfactory.