Driven by hunger, two disparate groups of Bedouin contest not just with each other but with the jerboas, the original desert rats, for the barley that all need to survive. Sacrifice, prejudice, love, stupidity, beauty and violence are brilliantly encapsulated in an absorbing story with a totally unexpected ending. And please don't be put off by the occasional use of animal 'voices' - in this book it really works.
These middle men would, Sheik Hamed knew, pay just a few piastres for the charcoal then sell it at many times the price. He realised, too, what a great crime they'd be committing by destroying these trees in whose shade their ancestors had reclined .... Their ways to survive were limited. They could work in the minefields, or they could go to Al Urban and clamber up dangerous mountain paths to pull halfa. If those possibilities were too difficult, then their only course was to make charcoal.