x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

An Englishwoman in Croatia

Aminatta Forna’s The Hired Man is a taut tale set in a small Croatian town after the civil war.

Frank Patrick Morgan

This third novel by the Glasgow-born, Sierra Leone-raised author was one of the most anticipated books of this year – and Aminatta Forna lives up to the hype.

A taut tale set in a small Croatian town, it looks at the aftermath of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and the effect it has on a close-knit community.

The story begins with the arrival of an Englishwoman and her two teenage children when they buy a dilapidated house just outside the town.

What transpires is told through the eyes of Duro, a handyman who helps the English family renovate the old home.

The Englishwoman’s resemblance to an ethnic Serb who once lived in the house sparks a chain of events that questions everyone’s role, both passive and active, in the horrors that happened 15 years before.

Beautifully written, it asks tough questions about friendship and the nature of nationalism – and just who the heroes are when it comes to a conflict during which former friends and neighbours suddenly become the enemy. A must read.