I don’t know quite where I am with The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon. It’s not the book I thought it was, but it’s none the worse for it, it’s just that I’m surprised. I don’t normally pick up books about the Middle East or indeed books that in anyway relate to the military and yet, here I am writing about a book set in Jordan telling the story of American army wives. Furthermore, I couldn’t put it down and so broke with tradition and instead of taking only new books with me when I headed away for a week, I kept this one in my bag too and I’m glad I did. Perplexed and glad.
The Confusion of Languages tells the story of two army wives, Cassie and Margaret. Cassie has been living in Jordan for some time and is a woman that loves to adhere to the rules. Thwarted in her own personal life and desperate to have a baby, she is charged with welcoming new mother Margaret to the capital and showing her the ropes. However, as in life, these are two profoundly different women with two very different perspectives on the Jordanian experience and how to conduct yourself in a country that is so very different from home. As Cassie tries to establish her dominance over Margaret, the latter pushes back, choosing to follow very much her own path.
So far, so good. So why my confusion? Simply put, I think I had a different expectation from this book to what was ultimately delivered. The ending left me really thinking and wondering if I would have done it differently? I love this kind of feeling, where you are left hankering after more, not because of any any failing in the novel but because of how good the writing and plot was. In reality, the ending was actually perfect and Fallon’s story had me totally captivated both as a tale and as an insight into what army wives go through. My mother always warned me never to marry a soldier as he would never be there, but I don’t think I had really ever contemplated what that meant. What it is to be alone and yet at the same time part of something, in this case the US embassy, in a country so culturally different to everything you have experienced previously.
This is a fascinating, well paced book and most importantly a damn good read.