Michelle Peach (2018)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (3/19)
“Gazelle in the Shadows” by Michelle Peach is whirlwind drama combining some of the most exciting elements of political/international intrigue, historical fiction, and coming of age.
It is the story of Elizabeth Booth, a young British college student who is studying Arabic at Durham University. She travels to Damascus to study and is eagerly welcomed by all she meets. Throughout her journey people go out of their way to help her find housing and become acclimated to the city and culture. Elizabeth enjoys her life in Damascus – she makes good friends, has a boyfriend and falls easily into her studies. But little inconsistencies start throwing red flags in her direction, and she suddenly discovers she is in a world where nothing is as it seems and must fight for her very survival.
The lines between memoir and fiction are blurred in this story, the author outlining in the beginning this is a work of fact and fiction intertwined. The result? A thrilling experience with a genuine vibe. Readers minds will easily manifest the distinctive local attributes in the various settings, cultural behaviors and characteristics of all the players in the story. The authenticity of the plotline, with its shocking twists sets an alarming sense of foreboding as the story plays out. I couldn’t help but wonder, as many will do, what was real and what was elaborated on for the benefit of a chilling, dynamic read.
I found the character of Elizabeth to be one that pulled me in many different directions. On one hand, I found her to be a bit naïve and actually resented that at first, but she grew on me as she grew with the story. I also had to consider my own personality and don’t doubt for a moment that I would have reacted any differently, though perhaps with less courage! In the end, I found her to be an authentic character with the genuine characteristics of a person in a strange land full of different customs.
I love a story that enthralls while also informing the reader. “Gazelle in the Shadows” does it right – it is through the protagonist’s experiences, (as opposed to just being told what happened), I learned so much about the Syrian people, culture, and a significant era in history – all while being entertained within the pages of a remarkable story.
Overall, I found “Gazelle in the Shadows” by Michelle Peach to be an exciting thriller and recommend it to fans of fiction and memoir, and especially to those who love a good international political thriller.