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August 15, 2012

Review - Two boys from Aden College

Dr Abdulla Al-Sayyari

More by this author...

This novel is indeed a page-turner. I read it with fascination and enjoyed it at different levels.

The author described the events and characters in an entertaining way and yet with deep and  exploring insight reflecting the author’s long- established writing wizardry combined with his extensive background in the understanding of human nature and human endeavour. 

He made use, beautifully, of hard hitting deep dialogues in order to make the reading enjoyable and in unison to dissect the characters’ inner thoughts, vulnerabilities and belief-systems

 I am an Aden College alumnus myself and at that level I was spellbound by the imaginary journey of two co-alumni –Ahmad and Hassan. They may well be imaginary but I bet any Aden College alumnus reading the novel would enjoy recognizing more than fleeting resemblances of some of his classmates to these two “composite” characters.

The novel as such – albeit in a secondary way and not in depth - reflects aspects of what befell the alumni of this great and unique College (which one can read about in its rich website This is not a private affair of interest for Aden College alumni only, as it could easily apply to graduates of British Universities who emanated from different British colonies during that era.

At another level the author cleverly uses his novel with its intricate plot to delve into the generally tragic and corrupt governance system of Yemen, and as such it is a record of the recent history of that country. The story shows that people in power in such unbelievably dictatorial regimes will stop at nothing to get their way and to hold on to power.

The author also gallantly tackles certain taboo areas in the society he is addressing; such as sex, homosexuality (in males and females), prostitution and oppression of women. He also head-on addresses the hypocritical abuse of religious doctrines.

He is to be commended for discussing these issues as they do clearly exist, despite persistent societal attempts at brushing them under the carpet and thus not bothering to address and resolve their unhappy and devastating consequences.

The author cleverly, not just gloss over these taboo areas, but he also attempts to show the degree of abuse of the vulnerable, hypocrisy and the suffocating double standards that are associated with them. As such the novel is also – to a degree -- a socio-anthropological refection of the era in that part of the world.

At an important level, the novel simply excels as fast-paced “mystery” &  “who-done-it” story as the reader follows with fascination and interest what would become of the two main characters of the story, Ahmad and Hassan, with the frequent ups and downs of their lives. The forensic detective work by Ahmad was simply stunning besides being funny and clever.

The story is in a way a sophisticated form of the ever-present struggles of “good” and “evil” within and between us. Dr Qais Ghanem does not resort to easy answers for such struggles but leaves  it to the reader to make up her/his mind while painting a fascinating background to the issues concerning such eternal struggle

The novel should - and I imagine it would - be made into a TV play or be extended to become as series of plays. Perhaps to attract more audience such a play would be called “The Doctor versus The Lawyer” or “The Brothers-in-Law” -

The novel would - if I have my way – be a component of the curricula at Yemeni Universities in the faculties of English, sociology, psychology and even politics. Alas, this is unlikely to happen

Dr Abdulla Al-Sayyari,
Jedda, Saudi Arabia
Professor of Medicine
King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences
Head, Division of Nephrology & Renal Transplantation,
King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh
Editor in Chief, Saudi Journal for Kidney Diseases & Transplantation

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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