Book Review: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadiga Mohamed

I’m never drawn to books about wars or non-Western places. Somalia? I didn’t know if I would want to read about it…. before I got this book. Simon & Schuster UK sent it to me and the cover looked so beautiful, I just had to try it. You might know that I’m one of those people that DO judge a book by its cover. Every time. And what great judgement! The book was really very good!

The Orchard of Lost Souls: What it is about

The publisher says: “It is 1988 and Hargeisa waits. Whispers of revolution travel on the dry winds but still the dictatorship remains secure. Soon, and through the eyes of three women, we will see Somalia fall.

Nine-year-old Deqo has left the vast refugee camp she was born in, lured to the city by the promise of her first pair of shoes. Kawsar, a solitary widow, is trapped in her little house with its garden clawed from the desert, confined to her bed after a savage beating in the local police station. Filsan, a young female soldier, has moved from Mogadishu to suppress the rebellion growing in the north.

And as the country is unravelled by a civil war that will shock the world, the fates of the three women are twisted irrevocably together. Intimate, frank, brimming with beauty and fierce love, The Orchard of Lost Souls is an unforgettable account of ordinary lives lived in extraordinary times.

The Orchard of Lost Souls: What I thought

The writing is very, very good. No wonder this author is one of Granta’s “Best Young Novelist 2013”. The book is written in the present tense, which makes the story very direct and the war situations very acute. There isn’t a lot of actual fighting in the book. Most of the book is about three very different women’s experiences during this difficult time.

The book begins very strong, and drew me in straight away, with the three women briefly meeting in a stadium where there is a national celebration. Nawsar, a woman of 50+ years old, an old woman in Somalia, goes there against her will, and helps Deqo, a little girl, when she is arrested by Filsan and her team. Thereafter, the three women go their own way, but do meet again later in the book.

The story is not a nice one. Bad things happen to the people of the small town where the three women live. But the way family, neighbours and strangers look out for each other is heart warming, and at the same time realistic. However much they like to help each other, in the end, they do anything to save their own skin, even if it’s to the detriment of another person. But can you blame them?

Through the lives of three women, I learned about the war in Somalia (in the 1980s) and more general, about women in a country at war. I had no interest in the topic beforehand, but I read a most beautifully written book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 338

First published: 2013

I got this: from Simon & Schuster UK for review

Genre: contemporary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Book Review: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

  1. I judge a book by its cover as well.. it certainly sounds as though this one’s content lives up to the cover. I’ll add it to my list.

  2. Lucybird says:

    This sounds like something I would enjoy. And you’re right it is a beautiful cover!

  3. Wonderful review as always. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I am your polar opposite — set the book in a non-western country and I’ve very likely to pick it up 🙂 Adding this to my TBR, thanks for sharing!

  4. It looks beautiful and it is a topic I find interesting, this book goes on the list! Thanks for the tip,
    Kind regards,

  5. Grace says:

    Oh wow. This book looks incredible! If I see it in a bookstore I’ll definitely pick it up.

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