Book Review: Caravan by Adam de Collibus

William Abney is a war journalist from London, England. After serving in the first world war as a photographer he returns to England and makes his living taking baby portraits. He gets desperate for money and decides to find another job. The novel opens with him going to an interview to work for a newspaper called, The London Dove. He meets Reginald, the owner of the newspaper, whose is an unstable alcoholic, and a little disillusioned. William senses that there isn’t something right in the job, but takes the job anyway. The Contract, proposed by Reginald, is that William travel first to Morocco then across the Sahara, taking pictures of the locals and anything of cultural value that can be used in the magazine, this demand for news on the cultures of North Africa coming from the British soldiers returning from fighting there.

William takes a ship to Arish, a town on the coast of Morocco. He stays there for several days and meets some very interesting characters, some openly cold to him, others extremely warm and welcoming. He sees that the population in the city are divided into three groups. The foreigners, manly Europeans coming because of the news from the soldiers, and the locals of Arish who are split into two groups, one side wants the foreigners there because they are good for business. The other half doesn’t because they have taken so much advantage of the foreigners being there that they unknowingly made it so that if the foreigners choose to suddenly leave a lot of business will go bankrupt and hard times will come.

William takes a caravan across the desert and little by little he becomes more interested in the desert. He becomes obsessed with seeing the dunes and feeling the silence at the center of the desert. During his travel he meets Hans, a chess champion from Germany whose history, like William’s, is marred by the First World War. He meets Alexander, a once wealthy factory man from England whose wife framed him and he is hiding in the desert. He becomes good friends with the leader of Caravan, Hakeem, a charismatic leader who has two sides, the fearless politician and the sensitive human side. He falls in love with a Gypsy woman who is travelling to a small village out of Yemen to see her grandfather, who is getting old. He also hears of a strange and frightening legend. The legend of The Desert King, a soldier whose soul was taken over by an evil spirit and who has spent the centuries hunting and killing anyone who crossed his sacred desert with his army of blood thirsty warriors.

When the caravan gets close to the middle of the desert, its most vulnerable point in the journey, William begins to think about his life in the caravan and realizes how much he loves his life here instead of the one lived in England. When William decides that he’s going to find a way to stay, the people of the caravan discover that their well is poisoned. Because of the vast amount of people affected by the poisoning the caravan has to stop and recover. People begin deserting the camp and more and more clues begin to reveal themselves to William in sinister ways that they are in fact being hunted. When he discovers who is hunting them it’s already to lateand what happens next forces William to fight for his life in the caravan and the lives of his friends.

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of caravan in terms of life. For me, Caravan represents our different life phases. Each stop, each station stands for one phase in our life. For William, Caravan is a lifechanging experience and each station reveals something new. William, the man we meet in the beginning of the book, is not the same William in the end of this book and it’s fascinating. Caravan is historical fiction in terms of genre, but I think it is also psychological in some way. Its focus is also on human experience and feelings.
Another thing that I loved about this book is imagery. I absolutely love the author’s writing style. Adam de Collibus did an amazing job here and the beginning of the book is great. I’m not a huge fan of long, boring descriptions, but the author’s descriptions here absolutely blew me away.

The cobblestone street was empty and lined with lampposts glowing yellow in the fog. Over the roofs, long tongues of smoke emitted from industrial factories added to the grey sky. The coach came to a gradual stop on the left side of the street.

Adam de Collibus, Caravan

What is really interesting is that contrast between cultures, and it is a huge deal in this book. There is some kind of anxious feeling between people – they are afraid of everything that is new. It’s fascinating how one foreigner can learn so many things by observing one culture. You just have to pay attention to it.

To sum it up, this book was good. It’s very different from my usual read and I somehow enjoyed reading it. The plot is very interesting and one can learn so many new things from this book. On the other hand, I found some unnecessary parts that could be left out and the story will still keep its powerful meaning. I’m glad I read this book and it’s a perfect read for my September reading challenge.

My rating: 3/5⭐


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