Growing up, my mom watched WAY too many Lifetime Movies, and I’m not talking about the sweet ones that are currently airing in anticipating of Christmas. I’m talking about the ones where the sweet, young girl inevitably gets caught up with the wrong crowd (usually a boy or one of the “popular” kids leads her into the disaster), and all hell breaks loose. So, when I read the following blurb, I had flashbacks to those days (and immediately pictured my mom’s reaction if I had told her I was going to Damascus by myself (here’s a hint: she would not have taken it well, and the mythological ditch that all parents reference would definitely make an appearance in her lecture).
In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.
The first thing that struck me about Gazelle in the Shadows was that it almost felt like reading a memoir. The author told us in the foreword that she personally visited Syria as a college student under similar circumstances, and I constantly felt as thought I was reading her autobiography, an individual recalling their personal experiences rather than a fictional account. Fortunately, her personal knowledge was only about the region and not about the events that transpired.
The main character Elizabeth’s naivety drove me insane (not because it made her less likeable…just because her story read like a Lifetime movie waiting to happen), but I found her to be mostly likeable. She was intelligent, but I wanted to shake her for thinking that going to Syria (even in the ’90s, prior to the turmoil that we are experiencing today) without housing accommodations was a good idea.
Overall, the story was a thought-provoking, thrilling novel that had me dying to know what would happen next. Thank you so much to the author for providing me with a review copy. It’s my pleasure to share my honest thoughts and opinions.