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The Optimists

by Andrew Miller

A bleak yet tender tale about a journalist coming to terms with what he has experienced in an African war zone, coming home to find unexpected solace in his dysfunctional family. As well as being an interesting insight into the healing powers of family relationships and the fine line between cruelty and compassion, the book shows what a breadth of feelings and experience a person is capable of. Despite the dark content it is still a book full of hope.

Extract

He became one of the people who go to the cinema in the middle of the day. He had an ideal film in mind, something with a few songs, an unimportant ending. At the cinema in Shepherd's Bush they were showing Breakfast at Tiffany's and he went to see it, sitting among pensioners and the unemployed, content until Hepburn, strumming her little guitar, sang 'Moon River' in a voice that was awkward and beautiful and piercing. He stumbled out, blundering past the dreaming usherette and hurrying home, astonished at himself. He had more luck at the Coronet in Notting Hill. An American high-school comedy, like an update of Happy Days. He watched it three times on three consecutive afternoons. There was nothing in the film to attend to, nothing that needed to be followed or admired. After each showing the swing-door of the cinema scraped the whole thing from his mind like bones from a dinner plate, leaving only a memory of sitting and the knowledge that for ninety minutes he had been safe.

Parallels

A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali by Gill Courtemanche
 

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