Rania Mamoun

BOOKS | Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun

Rania Mamoun | Thirteen Months of Sunrise (Comma Press)

As women in Sudan lead some of the largest protests in the country’s history, the debut short story collection by Sudanese writer RANIA MAMOUN, explores themes of motherhood, friendship, poverty, language and community. Review: VANESSA MUDD.

There is a gentle dreamlike quality to Rania Mamoun’s Thirteen Months of Sunrise, a collection of ten short stories. This feels at odds with some of the stark subject matter which encompasses romantic heartbreak, death and its aftermath and a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Passing (about a father’s death) is sensitive and beautiful. The multiple layering of senses captures emotion without overstatement or drama; it’s as if we are there too, holding our breath. Mamoun uses almost microscopic detail to convey the slow sadness of the moment as, in her anguish, she connects the sweat of the father with his soul.

The writing is warm, sensual and compassionate. Each piece demands re-reading and further consideration. Muck of the Soul is filmic and clever, using camera angles and directions to structure its narrative of poverty, bureaucracy and hopelessness. Showcasing the two sides of community, the author contrasts the generous heart of a doctor with the leadened one of a charity worker.

Throughout the collection Mamoun interweaves detailed observations, tiny movements, facial expressions and inner thoughts. Relationships and bonds develop between the unlikeliest of characters; romantic stories tell of loss. A Week of Love is written like a diary, brief and raw.

Across its ten narratives, Thirteen Months of Sunrise mostly examines the lives of those on the margins of society. Differences in wealth are tallied, cruelty and kindness exemplified, boundaries blurred – dogs are compassionate where humans are brutish.

Describing this as enjoyable reading feels wrong given the sadness of much of the subject matter, but nonetheless it is enjoyable. The pace of the writing commands a slower reading in response. Thirteen Months of Sunrise invites the reader to luxuriate; to immerse themselves in a plethora of emotions, whetting the appetite for more of Mamoun’s writing, and to learn about modern day Sudan at such a crucial stage in its history.

Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun is published by Comma Press and available now in print or as an ebook. Click here for more details.

John Lake reviews Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy.