Now and Then

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Now and Then by Salah el Moncef was an absolutely beautiful collection. The first tale, “Benghazi,” was by far my favorite. Told from the perspective of Mariam, a young Libyan girl, the reader is taken to the spring of 1942. Mariam’s hometown, Benghazi, is under dictator Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Burglaries, kidnappings, and murder are becoming a norm in her beloved home. This is a confusing time for Mariam; not fully comprehensive of what exactly is happening, Mariam does not understand her father’s qualms about her, and her sister’s Italian schooling.

Shortly within this essay, Mariam and her sister are selected from their school to greet Mussolini in person. Mariam is told she must hand Mussolini a gift, something she is excited about but also fearful about. What will her father and mother say? Both deeply and adamantly opposed to the fascism in their city, Mariam knows this will not go over well; needless to say, she is right. Her father meets his children with depression, falling deeper into himself and cutting off Mariam and her sister from their weekly visits to his study.

The end of this essay is both evoking and contemplative. A grown woman now, Mariam recalls this time of her life with grief but also with closure. Having felt, in a way, responsible for her father’s demise, the reader watches Mariam close a chapter of her life that she deserves peace from.

The reason I enjoyed “Benghazi” the most from this collection was partially due to its fantastic imagery and creativeness. The author spares no small detail in describing Benghazi’s local towns, shops, and citizens. The richness in cultural diversity jumps off of the pages in this story, allowing the reader to see more into the daily life in Benghazi.

I also really enjoyed “The Night Visitor.” Told from the perspective of Nausicaa, a teacher in Paris, the reader gets to dive into another character struggling with reminiscing on her past. The story begins with Nausicaa venting to her friend Pauline about a man she met years prior. This man, Mandi, had irked Nausicaa in every way. Only after Pauline called her out on her judgments was Nausicaa able to realize that maybe her resentments towards Mandi were misplaced resentment and anger towards her own fear of commitment.

Similar to “Benghazi,” “The Night Visitor,” focuses on a character trying to come to terms with their past. I think both stories are an excellent reminder that we can examine our own pasts; what experiences in our childhood have shaped us? Who has made us who we are?

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection; I would recommend this book to all readers, especially those who enjoy thought-provoking reads.

Reviewed By:

Author Salah el Moncef
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 168 pages
Publisher Penelope Books
Publish Date 01-Feb-2023
ISBN 9798986210445
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue October 2022
Category Historical Fiction