Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih = wonderful book

In three words:

Desert, hunger, battle


I read this book some months ago now: I was sent it for review in advance of the publication date and only intended to flick through the first few pages and before I knew it I was ripping through the book, not wanting to put it down. I actually started it on a boiling hot day (yes, unusual for the UK which is precisely why I had set up camp in the back garden) and as I read the first sentence I almost felt I was there in the desert.

Anyone who knows my blog will know that I am a sucker for books with animals in them or narrated by animals (see yesterdays post). The fact that I often have problems reading books narrated by children never seems to transcend to books narrated by a rat or a pig or a dog. Don’t be put off though, only the odd chapter is narrated by (in this case) a jerboa rat, an ant or a spiny-taled lizzard and it’s done in such a way feels necessary for the book and also gives us another angle in which to view the humans whom tell us the rest of the tale.

Homeless Rats is about a group of Bedouins in southern Libya who set off in a large convoy to a place in the desert further north where they are assured of bountious barley that they can eat and sell in the markets. Their home village of Mizda has suffered such drought that they have no option but to move on. Once they arrive in J    they are grief-stricken by the fact that all the barley ears have been taken already. Hungry and knowing they don’t have enough food to go on another journey they weigh up their options. Just as all seems lost, a young boy finds a stash of barley underground in a Jerboa’s home and then all becomes clear – the dessert rats have harvested all the barley ears for themselves to see them through the winter. Thus begins a battle between man and animal.

This book is really clever in making me see both sides equally and feeling empathy for both animal and human. At first I felt sympathy for the animals who had had their homes destroyed by humans and their food stolen. When all the dessert animal kingdom come together to discuss their lost homes and families and what to do next, I was upset with them as they watched everything they knew fall away from them. Once we switch back to the humans, who are literally desperate at one point as they have no food to stay and no food to go on their way, I realised that it was all about survival. It was easy for me to sit in judgement about these people coming and destroying the animal kingdom but they were starving and they were doing what was necessary to survive.

Verdict – Homeless Rats had shades of Watership Down in the desert. I adored this book and highly recommend.

Look how cute I am!


(Source: I received my copy of this book for review from Quartet Books)



Day 29 – A favourite book with animals in it

Oh but they do talk, James….

This is THEEEE most difficult challenge day yet.  I am a huge animal-lover and I have a real soft spot for books with them, about them or narrated by them. Funnily enough, if a book is supposed to be narrated by a child, unless it is really well done – e.g. ROOM – then they generally make me cringe. However, a book narrated by a dog……well! That’s differnt. It cvan be heartwarming or pure comedy gold.

After umming and ahhhing for ages which book to pick (I don’t want to offend said animals who didn’t quite make it, you see) I have decided to include twelve books today. Yes, TWELVE!

So, in no particular order:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read it in one evening and even skipped dinner for this book. I cried my way through half of it and I still think about those animals now. Boxer broke my heart (if you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean :().

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is actually called Lorelei’s Secret in the UK, but I bought it when I was in NYC on a long weekend about 6 or 7 years ago and read it on the flight home. A man’s wife dies by falling out of an apple tree and the only witness is the couple’s dog, Lorelei, so he tries to teach her to speak to that she can tell him what happened. Loved it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

You all know what I think about this book. I fell in love with Richard Parker the bengal tiger. Still love him now.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

My all-time favourite book, and not just because there are animals in it but it’s all the better for them being there. Wolves, horses, foxes, they’re all in there. And if the baby wolf cub doesn’t break your heart, I think it’s possible you may not be human. Sigh.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Yes, the rather sexy R-Patz stars in the recent movie (always a bonus) but before even he came along, I fell in love with Rosie the elephant and Queenie the dog in this book. Superb book.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Read this on a plane to Norway one Christmas and it melted my heart. A little girl, Patsy, lives on a trailer site near a little town in Alabama and becomes befriended by some of the residents. She makes friend with a redbird called Jack who becomes her bestfriend. Truly heartwarming.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I didn’t read this book as a child. In fact I read it for the first time two years ago. Black Beauty is a lovley natured horse who has a great life but his owners are forced to sell him and he starts a life of hardship and cruelty. But even among this there are kind, gentle people who want to help him and of course he makes lots of horsey friends. Lovely.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

I just loved this book and can’t understand why it’s not better known. In freezing, communist Moscow and 4 year old Ramochka is fending for himself on the streets when he follows a stray dog to its den and becomes one of their pack. This book is all about the bond between human and animal and it affected me so profoundly that I bawled my eyes out. Fantastic book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Enzo is the most loyal and lovable dog in the world and he tells us the story of his family through his eyes. Cry much?

Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih

I will be reviewing this book tommorow so keep a look out for it.

If Only They Could Talk by Jame Herriott

And finally, if I absolutely HAD to pick one then the prize would go to the James Herriot series. I have only read the first two out of my boxset and I love knowing that I have all the rest to come. James Herriot is a vet in the Yorkshire Dales and his books are laugh-out-loud funny. James tried to fit into the town of hardened Yorkshire farmers and animals with minds of their own. My fabourite characters were Mrs Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo had me bent over double, crying with laughter!

  Do you like books with animals? Which other ones can you recommend to me?