Book review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage

30 Aug

It was with some anticipation that I opened Cockroach by Canadian author Rawi Hage, and by the third page I knew it was a book like no other I’d previously read. The unnamed narrator, who I’ll refer to as Cockroach, is a middle-eastern immigrant living in Montreal. He endures a bleak existence of cold, poverty and unstable relationships with fellow migrants, and displays an anger and disdain for humanity in general. He doesn’t see himself as totally human anyway; he is part cockroach, and more comfortable away from the sun. He is dirty, a thief and a stalker.

Early on, the novel seems to be going the way of many other award-winners (in my opinion): moody, impressive, but with little in the way of plot. But gradually the reader is drawn into Cockroach’s world, learning, through conversations with his therapist, of his violent past and family tragedy in his home country. We follow Cockroach through a freezing Montreal winter as he attempts to find food and warmth, all the while seeming to struggle with his sanity. He begins a new relationship with an Iranian woman, Shohreh, who has an equally bleak history. Before long the pair is hurtling towards the novel’s dramatic climax.

I could barely put this book down during the last 200 pages (of 305) and I would highly recommend it.

My rating: 4 out of 5

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5 Responses to “Book review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage”

  1. steph August 31, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Oh, excellent. Yet another book to buy!!

    But seriously. I have to stop. I’m barely bringing home a paycheque from the bookstore!

    This one sounds good. Have you read Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner?

    • PrairieJournals August 31, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

      I was thrilled to get Cockroach for $9.95, total bargain! No I haven’t read Nikolski, should I be adding that to my list? Pretty soon I’m going to have to quit work to read full-time 😉 Wouldn’t that be fun, though?

  2. steph September 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Yes! You should totally add it to your list. It’s excellent. At least, I thought so. I wrote a few things on it; you can do a search on my blog if you want. It won Canada Reads this year, too.

    Oh, I so know what you mean! It’s a full-time job keeping up with the awesome books and book blogs and publisher stuff. Fitting it in at night and in between my three other jobs is hard and why I end up in bed after midnight every night!!

  3. Col September 5, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Thanks for this review. I am adding it to my book list right now. I am very fortunate to have been given a gift certificate from our local book store.. someone knows me well. 🙂

    • PrairieJournals September 5, 2010 at 11:48 am #

      I hope you enjoy the book. It is certainly different!

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