As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow

By Zoulfa Katouh (Bloomsbury)

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow

Review by Alex
The period of history that ‘As long as the lemon trees grow’ covers interests me because it is still affecting many people today. In addition to this, the book focuses more on the people and the devastation caused by the war instead of the politics around it.

Of all of the characters in the book, I think that Khawf was the most interesting. Khawf acts as a hallucination seen by the main character, Salama, and at first, he appears cruel as he shows Salama terrible visions of both past and future tormenting her into doing what he wanted. Later on, however it is revealed that he was only doing this to keep Salama alive as he convinces her to evacuate the hospital only for a bomb to be dropped on it. When leaving Syria, Salama asks where Khawf will go, and he replies ‘everywhere’ and finally reveals that his name in English is fear.

Overall, there weren’t any characters that I didn’t like as all of them feel very real in conversation and almost all of them have reasons for why they do the things that they do.

This book focused solely on the social side of the war instead of the political side. As a result, I have learned quite a lot of new things about Syrian culture as well as the conditions that many had to live in during the war.

One thing about this book that stood out to me was the morality of many of the characters. There were no truly good or truly bad characters in this book (barring any soldiers of the dictatorship) which makes the reader invested as many characters do morally wrong things and feel regret as a result. This book also has some amazing dialogue especially the emotional ones and a fantastic twist towards the end that was alluded to even at the beginning of the book.

Despite all of the great parts about this book, it still has one glaring flaw. The ending. The ending of the book seems quite rushed as it goes into great detail towards the beginning as only a few days are covered until the last 75 pages. This changes however as the last 25 all cover one day, however everything happens very fast and there is a lack of detail that most of the book had. The end of the book features a cliff-hanger as to whether the characters survived or not which could’ve worked very well however the next few pages contain the epilogue telling us that the characters lived. I think it would’ve been better if it didn’t contain the epilogue or kept going until they reached Italy.

Overall, I would recommend this book to other students however it does have some darker topics in it that may be seen as unsuitable for younger readers however others may disagree with that opinion. 

Review by Aryan
This book, written by Zoulfa Katouh, is something I would beg everyone to read. The story is set within the Syrian Revolution, following the life of a hospital worker called Salama. She’s an interesting character who suffers from witnessing those who have been killed in war, always trying to save the ones she can and closing the eyes of whom death has stolen.

The story is emotionally intense, Salama is torn between staying in Syria to help the injured or leaving to save her pregnant sister-in-law Layla. She has lost everyone and is continuously haunted by Khawf - a hallucination who was the product of the violence and horrors she has seen, a constant reminder of her trauma.

Amongst all the death and brutality, Salama sees hope at the possibility of a new life, a ‘might life’ as she calls it. Throughout the plot however, there was always that constant feeling of dread as there was always something to worry about: this is literally Hell on Earth.

“We are stripped from our choices, so we latch onto what will ensure our survival.”

I had heard of the Syrian Revolution before, however, Zoulfa Katouh’s way of writing had me engaged through every single chapter. It had forced me to view life through a completely different lens and think about the 2 billion people who live in war torn countries and their rights which had been robbed off of them. I highly recommend this book to those who are into war novels. A story about War, love, death, resilience and hope - ‘As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow’ has told a heart-breaking truth about the revolution ongoing in Syria that the majority of the world has turned a blind eye to. I’ve never read a book like this, and never could I have imagined that this book would be permanently engraved in my mind.

Zoulfa Katouh is extremely confident in how she presents her writing. She is upfront with the brutal consequences of the revolution and perfectly describes the fear that has engulfed Syria.A Beautiful, heart-breaking, brutal, powerful masterpiece. 

Review by Mariya
I absolutely relished every last letter in this novel. It felt as if someone was finally addressing the problem at hand resisting with the book, fighting with the pen, combating with words. Enticing me from the very beginning with it’s exquisite plot twist and the tension of death breathing right down their necks. What engrossed me even more so was the antiquity of it all, it is quite rare to set a book in these circumstances and even rarer to produce such a piece which speaks so eloquently to the reader. Anyone who read this book would instantly fall in love with Salama, but my preferred character may be Khawf; this is because even though he would give her agony like no other, he did help her escape she would have died if not. The plot was unforeseeable and prompted you to read more; it was also very excruciating. What stood out the most for me was the Syrian hope, that in every dua, in every chant they prayed to Allah for this chain of injustice and cruelty to be broken and for this genocide to be noticed. I would recommend this for 11+ or an age group that feels there needs to be change and understands the significance of this story and many others told by personal experience. I learnt some new Arabic phrases that I had never heard of and of course the beautifully illustrated line by Nizar Qabbani. It is worthy of becoming a classic.

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