What is the What

Posted by Lou. The time is 10.18pm here in London, UK.

What is the What is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese Lost Boy, as told by Dave Eggers. It contains violence, death, tragedy, war, starvation and unimaginable suffering. Sounds like fun, huh? Well, the amazing thing is that it's really surprisingly readable. Eggers has found a way to tell Achak's story in a way that makes it a page-turning tale without shying away from any of the hideous detail. In this way it is a brilliant combination of subject and writer - both their personalities combining to tell an extremely important story in way that is digestable.

The novel switches between Achak's new life in America and his experiences caught in the grips of the horrors of the outbreak of war in Sudan, and the long years of refugee camps. I'm going to have to steal the title of Eggers' own memoir to describe how this works - it is, quite frankly, a heart-breaking tale of staggering genius. That people survived this and went on to rebuild their lives is amazing. I was so wrapped up in this story that it wasn't until the last 50 pages or so that it caught up with me and I found myself sobbing to the finishing line.

I whole-heartedly recommend you read this book. In fact, I command that you read this book. And buy it, don't get it out of the library. You'll be supporting Achak's Sudanese education charity.

One thought on “What is the What”

  1. Great review, Lou. I agree with you on so many points.

    This book could have been shudderingly awful - I'm sure the authorial concept made many people do a double-take - but there is a beauty of spirit to this novel that combined with the wonderful storytelling just elevates it.