Out of It is the first ever novel by a British Palestinian, but it is remarkable for far more than this distinction. A compelling family drama set in twenty-first century Gaza and London, the novel skilfully carves its own niche in a genre – Palestinian literature – dominated by poetry and tending in recent diaspora fiction and memoir toward the epic. One can never escape the Nakba in writing about Palestine, but by concentrating on a span of months, and making judicious use of flashbacks, Selma Dabbagh compresses a long painful history into a taut Aristotelian three act drama that sweats intimacy and intrigue. Here bildungsroman meets noir detective novel, peppered with sufficient political argument to engage the well-informed reader and introduce the newcomer to the characters’ gestalt. While her authorial view of the colonial nature of the conflict is never in doubt, Dabbagh also confronts head-on the complex issue of Palestinian violence, both externally and internally directed. While the protagonists’ personal relationship to that violence is at times too fleetingly explored, and the obscure temporal setting is frustrating, Dabbagh’s lyrical style seduces, and her pacy confidence propels the reader on to her novel’s unexpected yet inexorably plotted climax. Like a blast of Mediterranean sea air, Out of It is a sultry yet bracing account of a generation growing up in the shadow of their parents’ failure.
Selma Dabbagh, Out of It, London: Bloomsbury, 2012.