"This is a beautifully written book, the characters of which leap to life and lodge in the mind. It is sure of its steps and tone, often moving, often daring." Robert Macfarlane (Landmarks, The Wild Places, The Lost Words)
Ì´Ì_ÌÎÌÌÎåOpen My Eyes is a tender story, perfectly evoking Addis Ababa in all its fascinating complexity... a joy to readÌ´Ì_ÌÎÌÌ´å. Elizabeth Laird (The Garbage King, Lure of the Honey Bird)
Ì´Ì_ÌÎÌÌÎåAllan writes evocatively of [Ethiopia]Ì´Ì_ÌÎÌ_The smells, customs, food, landmarks and patterns of life that her characters observe bring the country alive for the reader, creating an emotional and vibrant novel.Ì´Ì_ÌÎÌÌ´å Juno Magazine
"I was moved and captivated by this gripping, unflinching, tender story of a woman catapulted into loving an abandoned baby. Told with great insight, it evokes the contradictions of contemporary Addis Ababa vividly. I loved it." Samantha Ellis (Take Courage, How to be a Heroine)
"I have never read prose that so powerfully captures the sensations of a newbornÌ´Ì_ÌÎÌ_It's really wonderful to read fiction so heartfelt, so accurate, and so moving.Ì´Ì_ÌÎÌÌ´å Karen Hall, Sprogcast
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A wonderful, evocative story
What an entertaining and moving story! I have read and enjoyed many of books about breastfeeding and babies but my favourite type of reading has to be a novel. It is not often that one comes across a wonderful novel which features themes like infant feeding and Neonatal care. Even more rare to come across this within an wonderfully written, page turning story. I wondered whether a book written by a Lactation consultant on this topic might lead to a story full of cliches. Thankfully, I didn’t need to worry about this. There were enough factually correct features to make me smile, but they didn’t over take the story. I enjoyed the way each chapter was written from a different character’s viewpoint, particularly when it was describing what the baby was thinking and feeling. Some of this was incredibly profound and gave me insight into what small babies might be experiencing. These insights will stay with me – the author clearly has an extraordinary ability to put herself into other’s shoes and a thorough understanding of babies and their experiences. I also really enjoyed reading about Ethiopia and the sounds and sights and people who love there. Such a page turning story, I would recommend it to anybody, particularly those with an interest in infant feeding.
Open My Eyes
This powerful, character-led novel has remarkable insight and compassion, with unusual themes, and a beautifully captured setting - Addis Ababa. Written in chapters from five main viewpoints, it weaves in original thinking about the needs of babies - especially premature ones - yet is never didactic or preachy. Some of the best writing is from the viewpoint of Òa personÓ - a beggar with mental health problems who believes he is an emperor brought back to life.<br /><br />ItÕs a double love story. The protagonist - Mariam, returning to her home country of Ethiopia many years after being adopted to Britain - falls in love simultaneously with a particular abandoned baby girl, and with an older man, a white doctor. Will the baby survive, when so many like her die? And will Mariam overcome her sense of isolation and allow herself to be vulnerably attracted to the doctor?<br /><br />Black and white relationships. The cultural differences of nations. Adoption and its unfinished business. The needs of babies: these are the themes of this well imagined and humane book. Alice Allan captures street life, social and economic tensions and some of the history of the Ethiopian capital in this fascinating debut novel.
A really moving story
Open My Eyes is the first novel from an author whose life experience has provided her with the richest material with which to craft a beautiful story. Mariam is a midwife volunteering in Addis Ababa, where she encounters both her past and her future in ways she does not expect. She finds herself fighting for the life of an abandoned premature baby, using the unconventional methods of kangaroo care and donated human milk. Meanwhile she antagonises hospital management, dates a handsome doctor, and tries to piece together a sense of her own pre-adoption world.<br /><br />Alice Allan creates a real sense of the colours and dust and smells of Ethiopia, while telling the tale from multiple perspectives, so that each character's story develops at its own pace. But this is not just a book about falling in love with a baby; we also have a mild thriller smouldering alongside Mariam's story, although there is little for readers to figure out, and the rest of the book is so strong that this plot is not really crucial.<br /><br />The biggest strength of the book is the chapters written from the baby's perspective. I have never read prose that so powerfully captures the sensations of a newborn. If you need a way to convey the baby's limited, terrifying world, or the importance of skin to skin and comfort, Alice Allan does this with the most poignant and effective insight. I read three pages of this book to a group of colleagues, and the effect was breathtaking.<br /><br />This is a many-threaded story, and the central thread is that tiny fragile human, buffeted by the needs and the limitations of the adults in her world. It's really wonderful to read fiction so heartfelt, so accurate, and so moving.