Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

A powerful debut novel that takes place in Ethiopia in the early 1970's. Beneath The Lion's Gaze is the story of family loyalty, freedom and revolution in a very difficult period in history. The emotion and tragedy in this book will leave you with a heavy heart. — Liz Barnum

This moving portrayal of a family negotiating the stormy waters of revolutionary Ethiopia is a must read. Mengiste's characters don't seem fictitious at all. Their love, loyalty, heartbreak, and fiery vigilance make for a truly compelling story of war. — Nancy Scheemaker

February 2010 Indie Next List

“Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a riveting novel focused on the primacy of family relationships against the violent backdrop of Ethiopia's 1974 Revolution. Hailu, a prominent doctor, and his two grown sons experience their country's tragedy and their own family's grief through very different prisms of understanding, yet they remain connected even through the gruesome terror overtaking their city. Very hard to put down!”
— Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA


"An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters." —The New York Times Book Review

This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.

About the Author

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Fulbright scholar and professor at Queens College, she is the author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze and a 2018 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She lives in New York City.

Praise For…

An extraordinary novel, which assembles a dauntingly broad cast of characters and, through them, tells stories that nobody can want to hear, in such a way that we cannot stop listening.
— Claire Messud

Revolutionary Ethiopia in the seventies is the searing backdrop for Maaza Mengiste's incandescent debut…the acutely observed story of a family—a prominent doctor and his sons, one moderate, one mutinous—undone by war.

The real marvel of this tender novel is its coiled plotting, in which coincidence manages to evoke the colossal emotional toll of the revolution.

Mengiste gracefully builds the story to a heart-pumping conclusion…Even with its share of tragedy, this is an absorbing drama…enhanced by the author's spare, spectacular prose.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393338881
ISBN-10: 0393338886
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2011
Pages: 320
Language: English
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