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  • Writer's pictureLynne McConway

Book review: My Friends by Hisham Matar

a photo of the cover of My Friends with a green paper Christmas tree and silver tinsel in the background

Thanks to Penguin reandom House for this review copy of My Friends by Hisham Matar.

It’s a wonderful story crossing decades and locations while examining friendship, home and exile. I found the novel’s prose captivating and cared deeply about our main protagonist, Khaled. 

The book opens in Kings Cross Station with Khaled saying goodbye to a friend as he departs for a new life in the US. We’re soon taken back to Khaled’s youth at his family home in Benghazi, Libya where he lives with his parents and sister. He is transfixed by a short story he hears on the radio by a writer called Hosam Zawa which ignites his love of literature and eventually leads him to Edinburgh University. 

At university, Khaled meets another Libyan, Mustafa, who unwittingly changes the course of his life when they attend the notorious Libyan Embassy demonstration in 1984. Soon, Khaled and Mustafa are exiled from their homeland and, in a chance encounter in Paris, Khaled meets the writer who inspired him as a boy, Hosam Zawa. Khaled, Mustafa and Hosam form a deep friendship and we follow them as they grow into middle age with their lives taking shape far from family and home.

It’s a beautifully written book with brilliant characterisation, particularly of Khaled. It explores what home, and family, mean - especially when you can’t return. I was sad to leave these three friends behind but loved this deeply poignant novel and highly recommend it.


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