Oliver of the Levant by Debra Jopson
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It’s 1969 and the world is alight with revolution. Oliver Lawrence, a Bondi Beach kid, is transported to one of the world’s most bewitching cities: Beirut in the Levant.
The city is on the verge of civil war, but Oliver, who idolises Jimi Hendrix and Lawrence of Arabia, is more concerned with holding his family together. This mission becomes complicated as Oliver’s ravishing, gin-swilling stepmother, Babette, and cavalier playboy pilot father indulge in unbridled expatriate partying. And Babette has a secret that Oliver is determined to uncover.
Beirut is a confusing place to learn how to be a man, involving snipers, codes of honour and purloined letters. As Lebanon begins to disintegrate, no one can avoid being caught in the crossfire. It’s bad enough when Oliver develops a very public crush on the local warlord’s girlfriend, but it turns disastrous when his young guerrilla friend, ‘Ringo’, enlists his misguided enthusiasm to turn his exploding cigar magic trick into a suitcase bomb. When Oliver is given an old Box Brownie, he finds a way into the world, into the lives of others and, finally, into adulthood. Oliver of the Levant is by turns humorous and heart-breaking, an all-at-sea story about the secret longings of youth and the uncomfortable truths that make us who we are.
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