Sunday, March 15, 2009
Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet
Lyrically written, Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet, portrays a young girl's sexual awakening while her family is spending a year in Cairo. Elizabeth is thirteen, and is a sensitive girl who is devoted to her father. Her father is an academic and lives the life of the mind. Her mother, on the other hand, is an extremely physical person, and her time in Egypt is spent making romantic conquests of various men. After an especially cruel betrayal, the mother moves out and pursues her life without her husband and daughter.
Elizabeth and her father become close friends with an Egyptian perfumer, Ramses Ragab. Ragab owes a perfume shop, and his obsession is recreating the ancient scents from the past that have been lost. He is a sensitive and brilliant man, and provides a lifeline to the father, who has collapsed after his wife's departure. Elizabeth is entranced with Ragab, and fantasizes about him. She spends the summer lost in a series of dreams and beginning flirtations with Ragab, and longs to give herself to him. Her romantic fantasies are crushed when Ragab is involved in the ultimate betrayal.
The language in this book is langerous, and excites the various senses. It recalls that time we all went through as children, when we are ready to put down the toys of childhood and start to learn the joys and pleasures of adulthood. The story weaves back and forth between the present and the past, as Elizabeth recalls that time in her life. The reader learns of ancient Egyptian history, of magicians and mummies, of perfumes and the clash between the culture of Egypt and that of the visiting Americans. Relationships between men and women and how love can crush as well as exalt are explored. There is some sexual content that could be objectionable to some readers. This book is recommended for those readers willing to walk with Elizabeth on her voyage of self-discovery.