Quill of the Dove
by Ian Thomas Shaw
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Pub Date 01 Apr 2019 | Archive Date 30 Jul 2019
Guernica Editions, MiroLand
French journalist Marc Taragon is at the apex of his career in 2007. A tenacious idealist, Taragon has spent the last thirty years attempting to bring to readers the truths about the wars and political intrigues of the region. He is unsparing in his criticism of extremists and has earned many enemies. He agrees to be interviewed in Cyprus, by a young Canadian journalist, Marie Boivin, not knowing that Marie has a hidden agenda: to discover through Taragon the truth about her childhood.
Before Marie finds the answers she seeks, she is enmeshed in Taragon's plan to broker peace negotiations between a left-wing Israeli politician and a dissident Palestinian leader. Taragon succeeds in persuading the two adversaries to agree to an ambitious peace plan. The action then moves quickly through Europe and the Middle East as Taragon and his associates try to stay one step ahead of deadly opponents of their initiative.
Parallel to the main plot is the narrative of Taragon's early years as a journalist in war-torn Lebanon, his bonds to his partners in the peace initiative and Marie Boivin's tragic childhood.
"Quill of the Dove is a gripping political thriller driven by memorable characters, both noble and nefarious, whose destinies are inextricably determined by war zones and conflicts. Spanning the Middle East, Europe and Canada, the novel delivers a fascinating quest for truth and love that illuminates the legacies of violence in our complex world." -- Cora Siré, author of Behold Things Beautiful.
"Quill of the Dove is brilliantly plotted, bursting with suspense, and populated with characters one cares about immensely. Shaw proves himself resoundingly as a master of the political thriller. Easily one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years." -- David Joiner, author of Lotusland.
"Shaw’s intimate knowledge of Israel and the Palestinian Territories grounds the drama in this heart-stopping political thriller.” -- Governor General Award finalist Claire Holden Rothman.
Quill of the Dove will be launched in Montreal during Blue Met on May 2, and in Toronto at Supermarket in April.
Ian Thomas Shaw will be touring across Canada in 2019 to participate in readings, workshops, literary festivals, and other promotional events.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
This is a very well written story, but just not for me. The author’s extensive knowledge of middle eastern history, politically speaking, definitely shows in this book. The characters are strong, I just didn’t connect with any of them. The story is gripping and has a mysterious element to it. Overall, the plot was interesting and well done, especially since the author uses dual timelines to tell the story.
A better than usual thriller set in the middle east by an author who knows it from the inside. Set in two volatile time frames, this page turner also follows a romantic mystery that kept me guessing.
Quill of the Dove, a fast paced time-shifting work of literary fiction, enters the confusing world of Middle East politics as framed in Lebanon in the 1970’s and early 2000’s. The protagonist Marc Taragon is a hard hitting but balanced reporter who uses his reputation and friendships to develop a peace initiative with an Israeli politician and a Palestinian leader. This is a second novel for Ian Thomas Shaw whose experience as a diplomat and development worker in the Middle East takes this work to a very high level.
The story begins with an arranged interview between Taragon and a young Canadian journalist Marie Boivin who seems to have a hidden agenda. Before she can get the answers she seeks she becomes involved with Taragon’s effort to broker a Peace initiative. Marc Taragon, Johnathan Bronstein the Israeli, and Abdullah Akkawi the Palestinian develop an ambitious peace initiative that they promote through Europe and the Middle East while at the same time staying only one step ahead of enemies who oppose their plans. Meanwhile, all three men and the Canadian have personal interests that they must protect at all costs.
I like to learn things from what I read and I find this book fascinating because it explains all sides of the Middle East situation and makes the reader feel that he is developing an inside understanding of a very complex problem.
The complexity is perhaps my only criticism of the book. In an effort to hear a balanced approach to the situation one is introduced to multiple characters and situations. In books like this I find myself resorting to mindmap techniques to keep track of linkages between opposing factions. This is not a bad thing but the reader should be aware that it takes work to read this book.
The love interests that develop in spite of the violence and danger are entertaining and easy to follow. I feel as though the author is allowing the reader a well-deserved rest in the midst of the continual chaos. It keeps one interested and entertained.
This book is a comprehensive and a well researched piece of work with details that will add to the readers understanding of the Middle East and yet entertain them with a story of how human resilience can overcome tremendous atrocities. I highly recommend it and give it a 4 on 5 only because it is understandably a very complicated storyline.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Guernica Editions for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review.
First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ian Thomas Shaw, and Guernica Editions for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
New to the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I jumped at the opportunity to read one of his books, which mixes some powerful political drama surrounding the Middle East with some heartfelt emotional growth by his protagonists. In a story split between two time periods, the reader is introduced to two journalists. One, Marc Taragon, is a young man who has travelled to the Middle East in the mid-1970s to learn Arabic. However, with the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, the region is turned into a war zone and Taragon cuts his teeth on some of the most sensational and difficult to describe journalism of his life. The other, Canadian journalist Marie Boivin, who is coming of age in 2007 and has been sent to write a number of articles about Taragon. Her time with him is spent mostly around Europe, but shrouded by an Israeli-Palestinian clash that could soon get out of control. While both journalists face issues as they cover their stories, the region remains a powder keg, with brother turning against brother, in an attempt to bring religious and political stability—and superiority—to a head. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more than the politics to be solved, with both Taragon and Boivin harbouring their own inner angst and desire to understand something within themselves. While the region remains volatile and the groups continue to shift, one can only hope that some clarity will come to provide a ray of hope that progress can be made, personally, if not politically. A refreshing and raw look at Middle East politics with heartfelt drama and intrigue throughout. Those who enjoy a weightier political thriller will likely want to get their hands on this book.
This being my first foray into the world of Ian Thomas Shaw, I was unsure what I ought to expect. He is able to weave together a complex story with ease, pulling not only on strong political themes that have made splashes across newspaper headlines, but also give life to his characters that pose as vessels through which the story can move from one point to the next. Marc Taragon is a strong-willed protagonist whose development throughout the piece is evident. His youthful ways shine through in the early stages of the narrative, in the region to learn the language, but his inquisitiveness is also present, helping him not only as a journalist, but also a character with whom the reader can relate. As the story progresses and he becomes the guide with sagely advice, his character seems to grow and become more respected, even though he is still but a pawn in the region as a whole. Marie Boivin has flashes of the Taragon gumption throughout, though her inquisitiveness seems primarily focussed on her subject and landing the best interview possible. I got the feeling that the Middle East backdrop was secondary for her, which turned important as radical change took place and she was thrust into the middle of something chaotic. The reader learns much about both characters as the story progresses, both their public image as well as the inner workings of their minds. Many of the other characters sprinkled throughout this piece prove effective at creating a wonderful story that tells of some of the less glorious sides of the Middle East clashes. Shaw speaks of religious and cultural clashes throughout the narrative, breathing life into these themes by giving his characters important roles. The reader is able to see the struggle through these men and women, sympathising with them throughout, while making connections with others at times. Shaw shows that he is able to develop a strong story that works on many levels, speaking to the political and cultural situation in the region, as well as the questions displacement leaves in the minds of many. I could not pull myself away at times, as the story became enveloping and kept me on the edge of my seat. Shaw depicts the clashes and the ever-vigilant people so well, while pulling on the reader’s heartstrings to sense the importance of what is going on. This is truly one the of great parts of this piece, in that it seeks less to inform and more to help the reader to feel what is taking place, a true asset. A mix of short and longer chapters provides the story with a wonderful mix to propel the reader forward, hooking them and then giving detailed accounts of the goings-on. This is an effective use of the narrative and exemplifies Shaw’s great writing style. I am extremely interested in seeing what else Shaw has out there for readers and if some of the other work is just as involved as this strong piece of literature.
Kudos, Mr. Shaw, for a wonderful glimpse into the world of Middle East politics with a human touch. I was quite impressed with the balance throughout and hope others find the book just as engaging.
"It rooted my belief that the starting point for peace is empathy and the common people, when given the chance, can rise above the petty narcissisms of their political leaders and reach out to their neighbours". The last paragraph of the acknowledgements at the end of the book and for me, the most moving in the entire work. That is in no way a criticism, for this book engages the most difficult of subjects: peace in the Middle East in our time.
There is no question that Ian Thomas Shaw is an authority on the Lebanon Conflict of the 70's and subsequent unrest in Israel and Palestine; it's just that the plot becomes so convoluted at times that it takes real commitment to continue with it. Just following the different factions involved in Lebanon takes concentration, so it's not an easy read but if one is willing to put in the effort they will be richly rewarded.
Perhaps some of the difficulty with the read can be attributed to the Galley proof, it was pretty poor.
For readers schooled in intricacies of the Israeli / Palestinian struggle the introduction of a two state solution within the narrative of this work is a hopeful one and not without merit in reality.
Many thanks to Guernica Editions and Netgalley for this ARC.
The Middle East. Many have attempted to write novels about it, and many others have written simplistic B-grade movie plots about it. But to understand the complex geopolitics, tribalism, and religious antagonism of the place and write a compelling thriller, well, that’s just brilliant. And that is exactly what Ian Thomas Shaw has done in his new novel, The Quill of the Dove.
Shaw was once a Canadian diplomat and aid worker in the Gaza Strip, so he comes to the subject with a great deal of knowledge. And it shows. Shaws character, French correspondent Marc Taragon, covered the Lebanese Civil War, from 1975 to 1990, and the ever-entangled Israeli-Palestinian conflict for several European news organizations. He is back in the area in 2007, working on a clandestine peace plan for the Palestinians that meets with both support and militant resistance. It is in this present timeframe he meets a young Canadian journalist, Marie Boivin, who wants to interview him ostensibly about his career but she also has an ulterior motive.
The book bounces back and forth between the three time periods. While I found it while a bit confusing, like the Middle East itself, it was useful as the past influences the present and, it seems, the future.
Some have compared Shaw’s book to John le Carré’s works. Pretty high bar but this is a smart, fascinating, page turner of a book. Highly recommend.
Mr Ian's content was exceptionally creative, his protagonists all lead by example. Sometimes Taragon, Marc and Bronstein had to get in the trenches and work side by side to empower other secondary characters to equip and encourage one another. I can tell that Mr Ian loved that challenge of it!
The context was never altered. Everything portrayed in the Lebanese war was pretty much the same and that is truly wonderful. The author's words expressed the love to explain them his own way, with his own stories and language. Kamal Jumblatt's meeting could have been more elaborate though.
All in all, I'm grateful for this wonderful opportunity to read and review The Quill of The Dove.
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