The President's Gardens

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 May 2018

Member Reviews

This is a slow-paced novel which worked well for the story. Taking place in Iraq during Hussein's regime and the Iran-Iraq War, The President's Gardens follows Abdullah, Tariq, and Ibrahim, three friends who lives intertwine and who deal with things like love, loss, oppression, war, and more. Beautifully written and intriguing, I highly recommend.
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4 bold and intriguing stars to The President’s Gardens! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

This book came highly recommended by my friend, Marialyce. Thank you for the wonderful recommendation! 

Set in Iraq, The President’s Gardens is a timely and well-written story based on fact. Ibrahim the Fated was one of the most wanted men in Iraq, and one day, his head, along with nine others, was found at a bus stop. What happened? 

Al-Ramlin weaves an intriguing web of Ibrahim’s story, along with his friends, Abdullah Kafka and Tariq the Befuddled. And, at the heart of the story, is its connection to the secrets lying behind the locked gates of the President’s gardens. 

Thank you to Muhsin Al-Ramli, MacLehose Press, and Netgalley for the ARC. The President’s Garden is available now! 

This and other reviews are now available on my shiny new blog! www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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There is some beautiful highly effective writing in this fictitious tale of three friends living in a small village in Iraq. One of the friends will eventually spend twenty years in captivity as a POW in Iran, the other a scholar, while the third becomes the employee of a man who is ruthless ruler. They all come from a small village in Iraq and the book covers the time of the Iraq/Iran war as well as the Gulf War. The boys' lives as they grow into men contain secrets and through Al-Ramli's writing we gather an intimate portrait of their lives and the horrors that they faced.

It is not by any long shot, although never mentioned, that the blood thirsty leader described in this novel was Saddam Hussein and as the story continues we learn the horrors of what existed within the President's Gardens. Beautiful as they were to look at, they contained abominations that were demonic and horrific. 

This book is shocking and horrific starting in the first scene where five heads are delivered to the village and from there we learn the story of the boys growing into men as we look into the past. It is a look inside a country written by an Iraqi man. It gave the reader another perspective other than that of the American view and the world press. This author did a fantastic job of telling a story of three boys living in a primitive village and what the wars and their upheaval meant to them. Often gruesome as it is, it allows the reader to understand what the culture and mind set was as Iraq was lead by a leader who was as vile as he was cunning. We were given an intimate portrait of friends, their lives, and the utter turmoil of what it was like growing up in set afire.  

Thank you to Muhsin Al-Ramli, Quercus MacLehose Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this most moving story.
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Like many novels “The President’s Gardens” begins with a dedication, but this one is different; it tells the reader that all to follow is not fiction.

On the third day of Ramadan, 2006, the severed heads of nine men were found in an Iraqi village. Explaining what lead up to that climactic juncture is done by retracing the lives of three friends as they unfold. Abdullah, Ibrahim, and Tariq were inseparable from early childhood onward, whether playing, going to school, hunting or learning about girls, where one was found there other two were sure to be. Collectively they became known as ‘the sons of the earth crack.’ At childhood’s end, Abdullah and Ibrahim are inducted into the army and go to war. Tariq, shielded by his father, goes on to the university. As the years roll by, all the sadness, disappointment, and mayhem these three endure is laid out in excruciating detail. All will soon find that only grotesquery blooms in the gardens when the “President” is Saddam Hussein.

“The President’s Gardens” does not read like a work of fiction. It is, I believe, a string of anecdotes and personal experiences that are skillfully arranged into book form. Does that add special value, given the awful events it describes? Is it honest in what it tells the reader? The deep divisions in Iraq and much of the bloodletting is a direct result of the endemic religious bigotry present in the nation. That internecine violence is barely mentioned, and when it is noted the subject is not addressed with any specificity. The cruelty of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the influence of Islam and the collective effect these forces have on the habitués of this strange landscape also make “The President’s Gardens” a story with no joy or enlightenment in it. Is it even worth reading? Is it more than just a long lament about the poverty, bestiality, and devastation that Hussein and war visited on the people of Iraq? I cannot make those decisions for you, but for me, the answer is no.

My thanks to MacLehose Press and NetGalley for providing the advance digital copy used in writing this review.
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This book tells about life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. It is eye opening and tragic. If you liked "The Kite Runner" you will like this one as well.
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I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and when I read this book's synopsis, I knew I had to read it. The historical details were so strong and created such a vivid image, I was transported to the setting. The plot wasn't the most fast paced, but I didn't mind, because the plotting felt very careful and well thought out. The book is tragic, but fascinating and I look forward to reading more by this author!
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If you like Khaled Hosseini’s book you’ll like this book. The story is set in Iraq during the Gulf War and surrounds the lives of 3 best friends from a small village. One of them becomes a prisoner of war for 20 years, one becomes a scholar, and one becomes an employee of a ruthless, narcissistic ruler: tending the many presidential gardens and the horrors they contain. The descriptions are both beautiful and stark. The events that take place are harrowing and devastating. The lives of these three men and those connected to them are so simplistic and intimate yet so difficult and secretive. Each of them has a secret they can’t talk about which eventually affects relationships. The author does a superb job in telling the story of the events that were taking place at that time through the eyes of a small village.
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So before I start, I want to warn people that this book does not come out in the United States until May, but the UK translation is available at Book Depository here. This is a book originally published in Arabic in 2012, and I am so happy that it was translated into English!

This is the story of three men from rural Iraq, and how their lives are shaped and impacted by the first and second Gulf Wars. Even though the subject matter here is often tough, and touches on rape, torture, violence, and murder, the book does not feel political. It is really about what it takes to survive in a harsh environment, and what it takes to be a good man in a violent, amoral society.

I absolutely loved this book. I felt like I gained an insight into a piece of the world I had never understood, and I was totally transported by the story. I will say that the tone can be a little more formal than English language readers are used to, but I think this has something to do with translations from Arabic, because I noticed a similar formality in The Queue, which I read earlier this fall.
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I did not finish this book, and since it’s already been published I don’t feel so bad about it. It just started off to violently and I did not want to read a depressing book.
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I was pleasantly surprised by The President's Gardens. The story is very engaging and centers around 3 men who are best friends and grow up together in Iraq. War comes and they are separated and reunited many times over the years. Each character's story is compelling and is slowly revealed throughout the story. Every chapter adds complexity to the characters. Their friendship withstands the test of time and war. I love the way this book is written as it made me feel as if I knew those 3 men and was part of their friendship. I felt like the ending of the book was a bit lack-luster - such a great story being built up and the ending felt unfinished. I'm not sure if that's because that is how it was meant to end or if it's a consequence of the translation. Either way, the story itself and the characters and character development is enough for me to recommend this to a friend.
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Interesting book about Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Loved learning more about how Iraqis felt about the invasion and wars. For fans of Kite Runner.
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