“The Shadow King” by Maaza Mengiste is a historical novel set in Ethiopia during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and it follows the lives of several characters who are impacted by Italy’s invasion and occupation of Ethiopia. One of the main characters is Hirut, a young servant girl who is taken from her family and forced to serve a woman from Addis Ababa. As the war intensifies, Hirut joins the Ethiopian army as a cook and a spy, and she becomes involved in a revolutionary plot to drive the Italians out of Ethiopia. Another protagonist is Aster, a woman from a wealthy family who also joins the resistance movement. She struggles to convince the male leaders of the Ethiopian army to allow women to fight alongside men, and she takes on a leadership role in the battle against the Italian forces. The novel also follows the story of Ettore Navarra, an Italian photographer who is sent to Ethiopia to document the war. He is torn between his loyalty to his country and his growing sense of empathy for the Ethiopians he meets. “The Shadow King” is a richly detailed and emotionally resonant novel that offers a powerful portrayal of resistance, resilience, and courage in the face of oppression and violence. It depicts the complexities of war and colonialism, and explores the ways in which individuals can make a difference in the struggle for justice and freedom.
The Shadow King / A Novel, Audiobook Online By: Maaza Mengiste
With the threat posed by Mussolini’s army lurking, orphan Hirut recently struggles to adjust to her new life as a maid.
Her new master, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade.
Hirut and the other women aspired to do more than take care of the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who comes up with a plan to keep spirits up. She helped disguise herself as a gentle farmer into the emperor and quickly became his bodyguard, inspiring other women to take up arms. But how could she have predicted her own war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers?
The Dark King is an undeniably choreographed exploration of female power and what it means to be a woman at war.
History is often painted in large patches, making us forget about people, forget about people, and, as Mengiste pointed out, especially women. Though fictional, the novel allows us to understand that all history matters, and that both tyrant barbarism and the challenge to be endured are commonplace. No fouls; This job is not for the faint of heart. If you are not ready to accept that war is evil and that it needs to be exposed, then you are not ready for this. If you’re ready to see how women react not only as victims of war crimes committed by both their enemies and leaders, but also as those willing to stand up to those who oppress them, then this is the movie for you. Finally, you will be reminded of the stain that war leaves on all of us and how it affects all of humanity.
The Dark King explores the Italo – Ethiopian war from a women’s perspective. Unfortunately, historically, people with less power have often been forgotten or replaced by others. This book enlivens the struggles of women not only during war (when actively ambushed) but also within the confines of their homes. Maaza Mengiste paints a vivid, multifaceted picture of Hirut (the main character) as servant, friend and warrior. Most of us have read or heard of Adwa where the Ethiopians declared victory over the heavily armed Italians. We have also heard that women played an integral role in war cooking and caring for the sick and fallen. This book highlights how women have also been at the forefront of the battle with their male counterparts.
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