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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
Ian Thomas Shaw’s first foray into the world of fiction is aptly titled Quill of the Dove. French journalist Marc Taragon has spent thirty years of his working life reporting from the world’s trouble spots, particularly in the Middle East, always presenting a balanced view to his readers. As a young journalist, he covers the Lebanese Civil War, a multifaceted civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. He’s on the ground again during the 2007 Lebanon conflict when fighting breaks out between Fatah al-Islam, an Islamist militant organization, and the Lebanese Armed Forces. As Taragon is uncompromising in his criticism of extremists — of whatever persuasion — he has many enemies. When he is approached by a Canadian journalist, Marie Boivin, he agrees to be interviewed, unaware of her hidden agenda; to find out the truth about her childhood. They meet in Cyprus but before Marie discovers the answers she seeks, she becomes entangled in efforts by Taragon to broker a peace deal between a leftist Israeli politician and a dissident Palestinian leader. Taragon’s determination to see his plan for peace through to fruition is matched only by those equally determined to prevent it from becoming a reality. The story seamlessly moves between Taragon’s early years covering the Civil War and events taking place in 2007. And there are quite a few surprises along the way.
Quill of the Dove is a suspenseful, intriguing story spanning over thirty years in the most complex, misunderstood region in the world. For the man or woman in the Western street, getting to grips with the political and tribal intricacies of the Middle East is not easy, particularly as not all the world’s journalists cover these issues in an unbiased way. Ian Thomas Shaw could be expected to have a good working knowledge of his subject, given his background as a Canadian diplomat and aid worker in the Gaza Strip, but his intricate knowledge of the Middle East could not have come about from a casual walk down Gaza’s Jamal Abdel Nasser Street. Quill of the Dove can only have been written with an exhaustive amount of research. The reader is led on a guided tour through history with Shaw, like his principal character, Marc Taragon, presenting facts without coloring them with his own opinions. No detail of the period is left uncovered, including the infamous Phalangist massacre of 16th to 18th September 1982. All this, and a love story as well. I can’t wait for the movie.