Saturday 18 November 2023

Book Review: The Book Censor's Library by Bothayna Al-Essa (Fiction)

Title: The Book Censor's Library
Author: Bothayna Al-Essa
Publisher: Restless Books
Publication Date: 2 April 2024
Pages: 272
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Fiction
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

A perilous and fantastical satire of banned books, secret libraries, and the looming eye of an all-powerful government. The new book censor hasn’t slept soundly in weeks. By day he combs through manuscripts at a government office, looking for anything that would make a book unfit to publish―allusions to queerness, unapproved religions, any mention of life before the Revolution. By night the characters of literary classics crowd his dreams, and pilfered novels pile up in the house he shares with his wife and daughter. As the siren song of forbidden reading continues to beckon, he descends into a netherworld of resistance fighters, undercover booksellers, and outlaw librarians trying to save their history and culture. Reckoning with the global threat to free speech and the bleak future it all but guarantees, Bothayna Al-Essa marries the steely dystopia of Orwell’s 1984 with the madcap absurdity of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland , resulting in a dreadful twist worthy of Kafka. The Book Censor’s Library is a warning call and a love letter to stories and the delicious act of losing oneself in them.


The Book Censor's Library was a riveting tale that was part homage to books and reading and part social commentary of the horrors of authoritarianism. Full of literary references, it's a treasure trove of Easter eggs for those keen to spot every mention and every metaphor. But it was also a captivating story as we follow the book censor through his journey uncovering the delights and dangers (at least in his world) of literature. I was definitely absorbed in the plot from start to finish, though I'd warn that the ending might seem a little bleak. This is a work at times comic but at times deadly serious, and I think the author married that combination well. I would definitely read more works from Bothayna Al-Essa in the future. I am giving this book 4.5 stars.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

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