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Welcome to our comprehensive audiobook review of Omar El Akkad’s latest novel, What Strange Paradise. This enigmatic and captivating story takes readers on a thrilling journey through a unique world that is sure to leave a lasting impact. In this review, we will explore the author’s writing style, the themes present in the novel, and the impact of experiencing the book in audiobook format. So, whether you’re a fan of El Akkad’s previous works or a newcomer to his writing, this review will provide insight into the world of literature that awaits you.

Look no further for a thorough analysis of ‘What Strange Paradise’ as we dive deep into this masterpiece. With our review, you will gain a deeper understanding of this novel and the expertise to determine whether it’s the right fit for you. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a journey like no other. Let’s jump into this audiobook review of What Strange Paradise.

About the Author: Omar El Akkad’s Background and Inspiration

Omar El Akkad is an award-winning Egyptian-Canadian author born in Cairo. Prior to his career as an author, El Akkad worked as a journalist covering the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and the Arab Spring. His experience as a war reporter heavily influenced his writing, particularly his debut novel, ‘American War.’

El Akkad’s unique background and perspective have shaped his writing style, which often highlights the complexities and consequences of political conflict. In an interview with NPR, he described his experience covering the Arab Spring as a “turning point” in his life that inspired him to write ‘American War.’

El Akkad’s works explore themes of identity, displacement, and societal conflicts. His writing has been praised for its thought-provoking narrative and attention to detail.

“It’s a stunningly ambitious book, both in terms of its literary scope and its subject matter.” – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

El Akkad’s unique perspective and background have situated him as one of the most talented contemporary writers on political and societal conflicts. Through his writing, he urges readers to question their preconceptions and strive for empathy and understanding.

Overview of ‘What Strange Paradise’: Plot and Setting

‘What Strange Paradise’ is a captivating novel by Omar El Akkad that takes place on an unknown island where a boat crammed with refugees has crashed. The story follows the journey of Amir, a young boy who lives on the island, who discovers and befriends Vänna, one of the refugees from the boat. Together, they navigate the landscape of the island and uncover the truths and lies surrounding their respective pasts.

The setting of the novel is a unique world created by El Akkad that draws readers into the story’s ethereal and mysterious landscape. The island is much like a microcosm of the world, with each character representing a different perspective on the issues of identity, home, and belonging.

El Akkad’s writing style is masterful, underscoring the beauty and darkness of the human condition with a poetic and haunting voice. The plot keeps readers engaged, as the story moves briskly through unexpected twists and turns, leading to a stunning conclusion that captures the raw emotions of the characters and the stark realities of the world they inhabit.

The Power of Narration: Audiobook Format

Experiencing What Strange Paradise in audiobook format adds a new layer of depth to the story. The role of narration is critical in bringing the story to life and enhancing the overall experience for the listener.

The audiobook format offers a unique opportunity to hear the characters’ voices and emotions portrayed by professional narrators. The narration captures the tone, flow, and rhythm of the story, helping listeners immerse themselves in the plot.

Moreover, in the case of What Strange Paradise, the audiobook format complements the unique writing style of Omar El Akkad, which is highly visual and descriptive. Many readers have appreciated the audiobook version of the novel, attributing their enhanced engagement and overall experience to the narrators’ performance.

The audiobook format also offers convenience, allowing listeners to enjoy the story while engaging in other activities such as commuting or exercising. It is an excellent alternative for people who struggle to find time to read books physically.

“The narration adds a new dimension to the story, making it an even more compelling and immersive experience.”

Themes and Symbolism: Analysis of ‘What Strange Paradise’

‘What Strange Paradise’ is a novel filled with themes and symbolism that add depth and complexity to the story. One of the most prominent themes is the exploration of the human condition, and our struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. El Akkad’s skillful use of symbolism adds another layer to the story, allowing readers to interpret events and characters in multiple ways.

One of the most significant symbols in the book is the ocean, which represents both danger and salvation. The ocean is a symbol of the refugees’ journey, as they risk their lives to cross waters in search of a better life. It is also where they find refuge and connect with each other, forming a community.

The book also explores the theme of identity, as the main characters, Amir and Vänna, struggle with their sense of self. Their journey of self-discovery is a poignant reminder of the importance of knowing who we are and where we come from.

Through his masterful use of language and narrative techniques, Omar El Akkad weaves together themes and symbols to create a thought-provoking experience for readers. ‘What Strange Paradise’ is a work that stays with you long after you’ve finished it, leaving you pondering the deeper meaning and messages hidden within its pages.

Characters and Relationships: Exploring Depth and Development

‘What Strange Paradise’ is a novel that not only has an enigmatic plot and setting but also a cast of complex characters. As the story unfolds, readers witness the growth and development of these characters, each with their own struggles and motivations.

Told primarily from the perspective of young Amir, the story centers around his relationship with the mysterious Vänna, an outsider whose arrival on the island brings not only hope but also danger. Their budding friendship is a key aspect of the plot and keeps readers engaged as they watch their relationship develop.

However, the relationship between Vänna and Amir isn’t the only one that is explored in the novel. ‘What Strange Paradise’ also focuses on family relationships – particularly the bond between a mother and her child. Through Amir’s memories of his mother, readers gain insight into the deep and complex love that exists within families.

Throughout the novel, El Akkad skillfully weaves together the different character arcs, providing depth and complexity to each of them. By the end of the audiobook, readers are left with a profound understanding of the characters and their relationships.

Characters and relationships

Pacing and Writing Style: El Akkad’s Artistic Choices

One of the most prominent features of Omar El Akkad’s book, What Strange Paradise, is the unique writing style and pacing of the narrative. By analyzing El Akkad’s artistic choices, readers can gain insight into the author’s intentions and the impact these decisions have on the story.

El Akkad’s writing style is characterized by its descriptive language and attention to detail. The author expertly paints a vivid picture of the fictional world, bringing the settings and characters to life. The pacing of the narrative is deliberate and calculated, with tension building gradually over the course of the story.

Throughout the book, El Akkad makes explicit choices to direct the reader’s attention to specific details, such as using short, punchy sentences to create a sense of urgency or employing pauses to build suspense. These artistic choices enhance the overall impact of the story, contributing to the emotional weight of the narrative.

Examples of El Akkad’s Artistic Choices:

Artistic Choice Effect on Audience
Use of descriptive language Creates a vivid mental image of the settings and characters
Deliberate pacing Builds tension and suspense over the course of the story
Short, punchy sentences Creates a sense of urgency and immediacy
Pauses and breaks Builds suspense and adds emotional weight to key moments

Through his writing style and pacing, El Akkad expertly creates a world that is both captivating and emotionally resonant. By analyzing his artistic choices, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the author’s intentions and the impact these choices have on the narrative.

Reception and Critiques: What Others Are Saying

Since its release, ‘What Strange Paradise’ has garnered widespread attention and acclaim. Reviewers have praised the novel’s thought-provoking themes, vivid characters, and masterful storytelling:

“El Akkad is so good at what he does that you’re hooked from the very first line, not only on the mystery of the desert island but on the story of this family and their experiences in Syria.” – NPR

However, some critiques have noted that the narrative structure can be disjointed at times, making the story difficult to follow:

“‘What Strange Paradise’ is a challenging book about an important and timely subject, but El Akkad often sacrifices clarity in the effort to conjure suspense and create literary fireworks.” – The New York Times

Overall, ‘What Strange Paradise’ has been well-received by critics and readers alike, solidifying Omar El Akkad’s place as a masterful storyteller in the literary world.

Themes of Identity and Refugees: Societal Relevance

Omar El Akkad’s novel, ‘What Strange Paradise,’ explores powerful themes of identity and refugees that are highly relevant to contemporary society. The story follows the journey of a young refugee girl who washes up on the shores of a fictional island nation and the impact her arrival has on the island’s residents.

‘What Strange Paradise’ raises important questions about immigration, displacement, and the struggle for identity in a new and unfamiliar environment. It sheds light on the difficult choices that refugees face and the emotional toll that comes with leaving behind one’s home and family.

The novel’s portrayal of societal issues has the potential to provoke thought and discussion about the experiences and challenges faced by refugees worldwide. Through the lens of fiction, ‘What Strange Paradise’ provides a unique perspective on the human side of this global crisis.

“Akkad’s story serves as a reminder that the issues of refugees and identity are not abstract concepts nor simply news headlines. These are real people – narratives that demand to be heard and understood,” says CBC Radio in their review of the book.

The Influence of Media on Perception

El Akkad’s novel also touches upon the effects of media on our perceptions of refugees and immigrants. The negative portrayal of refugees in the media can be harmful and contribute to xenophobia, racism, and discrimination.

‘What Strange Paradise’ encourages readers to question their beliefs and attitudes about refugees and to challenge the mainstream media’s often biased representations of this vulnerable population. It reminds us that behind each statistic or news headline, there is a human face and a unique story that deserves to be heard.

Audiobook Recommendations: Similar Works to Explore

If you enjoyed ‘What Strange Paradise’ as an audiobook and are looking for similar works, here are some recommendations:

Book Title Author Description
The Road Cormac McCarthy An emotionally intense and heart-wrenching story about a father and son’s journey through a post-apocalyptic world.
The Overstory Richard Powers An intricately woven story that explores the relationships between humans and trees, and the impact of our actions on the environment.
The Water Dancer Ta-Nehisi Coates A powerful and captivating narrative that follows the life of a young boy born into slavery and his journey towards freedom.

Note: These recommendations are based on similar themes and writing styles as ‘What Strange Paradise’ and may vary depending on personal preferences.


In conclusion, ‘What Strange Paradise’ by Omar El Akkad is an enigmatic and captivating novel that is well-suited for audiobook format. Through its unique plot and setting, complex characters, and underlying themes and symbolism, the novel offers a thought-provoking and engaging listening experience. El Akkad’s writing style and pacing adds to the overall quality of the narration and further enhances the reader’s experience.

The societal relevance of the themes of identity and refugees explored in the novel adds to its value and potential to spark discussion. Overall, ‘What Strange Paradise’ is a must-read/listen for those searching for a novel that blends a compelling narrative with thoughtful analysis.

For those interested in similar works, we recommend exploring ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid and ‘The Displaced’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Both of these works share similar themes and narrative structures and are available in audiobook format.

Experience ‘What Strange Paradise’ for yourself and immerse yourself in this unique and unforgettable story.

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