Review: Searching for Charlotte by Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell

Title: Searching for Charlotte

Author: Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell

Published: 1st November 2020, National Library of Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Quikmark Media

++++++

My Thoughts:

“We come from a family of marvellous storytellers….Our lives were enriched by their stories…”

In 1841, the first Australian children’s book titled ‘A Mother’s Offering To Her Children’ was published, its author, ‘A Lady Long Resident in NSW’. It wasn’t until 1980 that the book was correctly attributed to Charlotte Waring Atkinson (Barton), the great-great-great-great grandmother of bestselling authors Kate Forsyth, and her sister, Belinda Murrell.

For Kate and Belinda, who grew up listening to the stories of their ancestors adventures, both before and after their arrival in Australia, Charlotte was already a figure of fascination. To discover she was Australia’s first children’s author only increased their admiration for her, and inspired the sisters two year search for the truth of the life she lived.

Searching for Charlotte is a hybrid narrative, a historical biography but one that is inextricably blended with the folklore of the sisters family history, and their own journey of discovery. Only so many questions can be answered definitively with what remains of the past…records, letters, diary entries, all of which Kate and Belinda draw on, but to fill in the gaps the sisters take some liberties, some of which comes from the stories passed down through generations, some from the informed speculation of the two women.

I enjoyed the process of learning of Charlotte’s life, and her legacy, which includes a daughter who earned the distinction of being the first Australian born woman to have a novel published. It’s unsurprising then that Kate and Belinda take such pride in their relationship to Charlotte, who seems to have been an intelligent, spirited, and courageous woman who faced many challenges, particularly in the latter half of her life as the wife, and then widow, of James Atkinson in the NSW colony.

A narrative that reveals adventure, tragedy and triumph, country and culture, folklore and family, I found Searching For Charlotte to be an engaging and enlightening read.

++++++

Available from NLA Publishing

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia

Also by Kate Forsyth reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Searcher by Tana French

Title: The Searcher

Author: Tana French

Published: 5th November 2020, Viking UK

Read: November 2020 courtesy PenguinUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Searcher is a compelling stand alone mystery from Irish author Tana French, best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series.

Upon the end of his marriage and his retirement from a twenty-five career in the Chicago P.D., Cal Hooper decides to move to a rural village in the west of Ireland where he intends to do little else than to renovate his dilapidated farmhouse, fish from the stream, and walk the mountains. He finds the relaxed pace of his new life, enhanced by a regular craic with his neighbour, Mart, and the occasional drink in the local pub, suits him, though he misses his adult daughter. But Cal can’t quite shake the habits of a lifetime and when thirteen-year-old Trey Reddy begs for his help, he reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance of the desperate kid’s older brother.

While it’s true that this is not a fast paced thriller, I was nevertheless drawn in, and held captive by the compelling characterisation, atmosphere and plot of The Searcher.

The first half of the book focuses largely on establishing and developing the characters that play an important role in the story. I liked Cal, a burnt-out ex-cop who doesn’t want, or need, much. He’s fine being on his own but not defensive about it, as shown by his willingness to indulge his garrulous neighbour, Mart. His patience with Trey, who is a smart, fierce kid from a poor family with a bad reputation, is admirable, and the relationship French develops between Cal and Trey is a true strength of the novel.

The community of Ardnakelty is a character in itself. I was impressed with French’s ability to effortlessly evoke the settings within her novel, from Noreen’s general store and Sean Og’s pub, to Cal’s isolated, ramshackle farmhouse surrounded by fields, and woods, and peat-bog mountains. There is a great deal lurking below the surface of this rural idyll, and its seemingly straightforward farming folk, with surprises that break through when least expected.

Trey’s brother, Brendan, has been missing for several months by the time Trey asks Cal for his help. No one else seems concerned by the absence of the nineteen-year-old, the assumption being he left voluntarily, either because he’d had enough of life at home, or perhaps to avoid some sort of trouble. Cal is instinctively wary of pushing too hard for information as his investigation begins, but in such an insular community his interest is immediately noted, and as Cal tugs at the threads that will unravel the mystery of Brendan’s fate, he draws trouble to his doorstep.

With its escalating tension, unexpected twists, and flashes of violence, I found the plot to be wholly satisfying, but it’s less the action, and more the complex and nuanced behaviours of the characters that are truly captivating. Unfolding in evocative prose with an Irish lilt, at a deliberate, absorbing pace The Searcher is a compulsive read.

+++++++

Available from Penguin UK

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: The Lady Brewer of London by Karen Brooks

Title: The Lady Brewer of London

Author: Karen Brooks

Published: 10th November 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

When Anneke Sheldrake’s father is lost at sea she is horrified to learn that she and her younger siblings have been left with nothing. Desperate to keep what remains of her family together, she strikes a bold bargain with her father’s employer and, armed with her late mother’s family recipes, daringly chooses to go into business as a brewer of ale. Despite being ostracised by most of her family and friends, and repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the local Abbot and his cronies whose monopoly of the ale trade is threatened, Anneke’s brew steadily wins favour amongst the community. Just as success seems within her reach, Anneke is targeted in a malicious attack that razes nearly everything she holds dear. Forced to flee for her life, Anneke is nevertheless determined to begin again and finds an unlikely ally in a London brothel owner. With courage and hard work, Anneke, taking the name Anna de Winter, slowly rebuilds her life and business, until the horrors of her past once again threaten to destroy her.

A saga of betrayal, love, tragedy, courage and triumph, The Lady Brewer Of London is an ambitious historical drama by author, Karen Brooks.

Anneke is strong protagonist, with spirit and convictions uncommon for her time. Despite harrowing personal tragedy she finds the strength to rise above it and carry on, refusing to be cowed by her persecutors. Her courage, loyalty and determination are admirable qualities and ensure the reader is firmly on her side, willing her to triumph.

Anneke’s loyal cast including her sweet sister, Betje, the brash Alyson, and the dashing hero, Lord Leander Rainford, are eminently appealing. The villains, including Anneke’s spiteful cousin, a raft of spiritually corrupt monks, and her inescapable enemy are infuriating and often terrifying.

Though set in medieval England, the story begins in ‘The year of Our Lord 1405 in the sixth year of the reign of Henry IV’, I didn’t get a true sense of the period. It seemed not that much different from Georgian or Victorian times, though to be fair it mattered little as the details were consistent and the setting well grounded. I was surprised at how interested I was in the history of the brewery industry, and I finally discovered the difference between beer and ale. (I don’t drink either so had never thought about it before)

The writing is articulate and the first person perspective works well. The pacing was reasonable but I did feel the story, at well over 500 pages, was too long overall. I was tempted to skim at times, particularly as the plot was, though well thought out, generally predictable, with the second half of the story essentially mirroring the events of the first.

Nevertheless, The Lady Brewer of London was a satisfying read and I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy the drama and romance of sweeping historical fiction driven by a strong heroine.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins US

Or your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko

* Published in Australia as The Brewer’s Tale *


Also by Karen Brooks reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Shearer’s Wife by Fleur McDonald

Title: The Shearer’s Wife {Detective Dave Burrows}

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: 3rd November, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Shearer’s Wife is the fourth Australian rural mystery novel by Fleur McDonald to feature Detective Dave Burrows, and the seventh in which he appears, but can nevertheless be read as a stand-alone.

The Shearer’s Wife is divided between two timelines, the first of which is set in the present day. When the Australian Federal Police arrive in Barker to arrest an elderly resident for drug distribution, Dave and his colleague Senior Constable Jack Higgins are convinced that Essie must be acting under duress. Warned off from interfering in the case, Dave asks Jack’s girlfriend, journalist Zara Ellison, to investigate.

Zara, while trying to ignore her symptoms of PTSD, throws herself into the case, looking for a reason Essie would risk the well-being of her young granddaughter by dealing drugs, and in doing so also uncovers a forty year old secret.

The second timeline tells the story of itinerant shearer, Ian Kelly and his very pregnant wife, Rose, who are heading to a station outside of Barker in 1980. When Rose goes into labour prematurely and gives birth to twins, she insists the new family remain in town but, unwilling to settle down, Ian chooses to leave them behind.

I enjoyed the pacing of both timelines, though Essie’s situation is the more compelling of the two storylines. The clues are provided early on to unravel the mystery of Essie’s motive, which is not unexpected, but does result in some moments of suspense, and a twist that endangers the lives of several of the characters is filled with tension. The fate of Rose and her family ties in at the end, providing a moving and uplifting conclusion.

I really like the character of Dave, an ethical, empathetic man who has a wonderful relationship with his wife, Kim. As a police officer in a small rural South Australian town, Dave occasionally finds himself walking a fine line between the professional and personal, but he is incensed when accused by the AFP of being myopic. He’s willing to risk his career in order to see justice is done, but not break the law.

One of the main issues explored in The Shearer’s Wife is the effects of PTSD. After the trauma of losing her father in a horrific car accident, and then her brother from a brief battle with cancer just six months previously (in Starting From Now) Zara is struggling, but unwilling to admit it. McDonald’s portrayal of Zara’s emotional state is thoughtful and sensitive, and addresses the general reluctance of people to seek help.

An engaging and entertaining novel, I spent an afternoon pleasantly immersed in The Shearer’s Wife, and I look forward to the next book to feature Dave Burrows and the community of Barker.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Fleur McDonald reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer by Nick Pettigrew

Title: Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer

Author: Nick Pettigrew

Published: 23rd July 2020, Century

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PenguinUK/ Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

I’d never heard of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer before seeing this book, but I was intrigued by the existence of such an occupation. It turns out that in the UK, ASB officers are employed by various organisations to help manage and/or curb anti-social behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour is:

(a) conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person  (b) conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises (c) conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person 

Nick Pettigrew worked for a council managed organisation that provided low-cost housing for those in need for almost twenty years. As an ASB officer, his role was to investigate and take action regarding incidents of anti-social behaviour affecting the tenants in the approximately 3,000 properties he was responsible for.

Such incidents could vary widely, from complaints about noise, to teens hanging out in stairwells, from drug affected persons passed out in doorways, to concerns about domestic violence. Nick would investigate, and then decide on a course of action, which might mean doing nothing; or involving specific agencies like the police, mental health teams, or social workers. He might recommend the installation of CCTV, send a ‘cease and desist’ letter to a tenant, recommend an injunction via court action, or take steps towards eviction. Some incidents could be resolved swiftly, others could take months, or longer.

Presented in a diary format, with heavy use of black humour, Nick relates the events of his days over a period of about a year. The book includes tales of several of his clients that are variously heartbreaking, tragic, absurd, and infuriating, including a vulnerable woman manipulated by strangers into sharing her home with them, a schizophrenic with a crude vocabulary she wielded against her neighbours when she was off her meds, a man who considered carol singers to be an unruly gang, and an elderly Nazi paedophile who disclosed his predilections to his neighbours whenever he wanted to be rehoused.

Nick also writes of the increasing difficulties of his job in the face of UK ‘austerity’ policies that have affected the entire network of social services. With anti-social behaviour on the rise, the already under-funded, under-resourced, and under-valued agencies that serve the disenfranchised, are stretched thinner every year. Nick’s anger at this state of affairs is palpable, and entirely understandable.

It’s no wonder that in the role of an ASB officer, Nick’s own issues with anxiety and depression eventually worsened until he felt he had no choice but to resign. Describing lives plagued by poverty, trauma, mental illness, addiction, racism, loneliness, and family dysfunction, among other issues, Nick laments he grew weary of being able to do nothing but treat some of the symptoms of society’s ills, rather than affect real change.

Raw, honest, funny, and disturbing, Anti-Social is an insightful glimpse into the work of an ASB officer, and the lives of their clients.

++++++

Available from Penguin UK

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

Review: The Naked Farmer by Ben Brooksby

Title: The Naked Farmer

Author: Ben Brooksby

Published: 27th October 2020, Macmillan Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Founded by Ben Brooksby on May the 12th 2017, what started as an Instagram photo posted in fun, has developed into The Naked Farmer, a worldwide social media movement aimed at breaking down the barriers, and starting conversations, about mental health, particularly amongst farmers.

Ben, a 5th generation crop/sheep farmer from St Helens Plains in Western Victoria, Australia began experiencing panic attacks in his late teens. He fought hard to manage his anxiety, and when a photo of him in the back of a grain truck, naked, with a pile of lentils covering his sensitive bits, went viral, he was inspired to use his new found fame, to benefit the agricultural community.

“By using the liberating combination of nudity and farm work, the Naked Farmer is starting conversations about mental health across Australia because at the end of the day it’s easier to talk about what’s inside once someone has bared everything on the outside.”

The campaign began in earnest when Ben organised a photo shoot and then the publication of a calendar, with the help of photographer Emma Cross, using locals from his region. Ben and Emma then decided to go on tour to raise awareness of rural mental health, meet some of his social media followers, and encourage their participation in the project. It’s largely from that tour in 2019 that the stories in this book, The Naked Farmer, are drawn.

The Naked Farmer includes personal stories from around 40 men and women of all ages, from all over Australia. These are tales of hardship and trauma, but also resilience and hope, told with courage, and a wish to inspire others to share their story, and begin their own conversations. While the contributors are all involved in agriculture, their mental health is affected by varying issues, including anxiety, injury, illness, eating disorders, depression, financial strain, and grief, just like those in the wider community, so you don’t need to be a farmer, or to get naked, to benefit from this book. You needn’t be one of the 45% of Australians to be affected by mental illness either, this book provides insight into the lives of our nation’s farmers, and makes a connection between consumers and where their food and fibre comes from,

“Above all, The Naked Farmer is a conversation starter. The stories you’re about to read are from individuals around Australia who all have one thing in common: they’ve started their conversation. I hope this book inspires you to do the same.”

You can support The Naked Farmer campaign by following them on Instagram or Facebook, or by purchasing this book, the annual calendar (2021 is available now), or making a tax deductible donation. As a non-profit organisation, all monies raised are donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Unit, who have dedicated mental health professionals that visit remote towns and properties to provide treatment and support, as well as education about mental health issues for individuals and communities in rural and remote areas of Australia. And you can start a conversation…

+++++++

Available from PanMacmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Booktopia I Book Depository

Review: Death in Daylesford by Kerry Greenwood


Title: Death in Daylesford {Phryne Fisher #21}

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Published: 3rd November 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

I have a confession to make. Despite adoring Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series, I have tried, more than once, to read the Phryne Fisher series but never gotten past Cocaine Blues. To be fair, that was some time ago and at least a decade or two before Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries made its debut on TV, a show I’ve now binge-watched in it’s entirety on at least three (or five) occasions. So when I learnt that a new Phryne Fisher mystery was being published, I absolutely had to to get my hands on it. I was a teeny bit apprehensive, but thankfully I loved it.

In Death in Daylesford, Miss Phryne Fisher, accompanied by Dot, travels to country Victoria at the invitation of a war veteran who hopes to win her patronage for the spa retreat he runs for shell-shocked returned soldiers. Accommodated near Daylesford, Phryne is looking forward to a week of leisure, but almost immediately finds herself hunting a brazen murderer, three missing women, and a kidnapper, despite the objections of the oafish local officer.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson on special assignment, Detective Sargent Hugh Collins’ lazy temporary supervisor is choosing the path of least resistance to solve a murder. Taking matters into his own hands, Hugh drafts Miss Fisher’s wards, Jane, Ruth, and Tinker, who are in the care of Mr and Mrs B, to help him, when it is revealed the victim is a school friend of the girls.

That makes four mysteries which Greenwood deftly develops in Death In Daylesford, skilfully laying red herrings and clues. Each of them are interesting in their own right, though the most intriguing relates to the very public murders of three young men. Deducing the perpetrator and their motive is a rare challenge for Phryne, even though the deaths occur right in front of her. My early theory was proved right, but there was a twist that took me by surprise.

I couldn’t help but visualise the actors from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries as the story unfolded, but even if you are entirely unfamiliar with the series in any form, the characters have a strong presence. Phryne is her usual unconventional, stylish and seductive self, and Dot, her stalwart, beige-clad companion. Much is made of a barmaids beauty, her suitor’s brawn, the haggard appearance of a battered wife, and a Captain eager to please.

Greenwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive, with the era coming across in all the details of the setting and styling, she excels at showing, not telling. I’m a fan of the Phryne’s quick wit, and dry observations, the author has a great sense of timing, and and an ear for natural dialogue.

Fans of the Phryne Fisher book series are sure to delight in this newest mystery, published seven years after the last, as should those viewers mourning the possible demise of the TV series. Entertaining and clever, Death in Daylesford is a charming, and satisfying read.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Truths from an Unreliable Witness by Fiona O’Loughlin

Title: Truths From an Unreliable Witness: Finding laughter in the darkest places

Author: Fiona O’Loughlin

Published: 27th October 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

When I read Fiona O’Loughlin’s first book, Me of the Never Never in 2012, it was as a fan of her comedy routines. I knew very little about her life other than what I’d gleaned from her stand-up, I just knew she made me laugh. I enjoyed the memoir which largely focused on her childhood, and her life as a young wife and mother of five in Australia’s outback. I remember her having recently admitted to her alcoholism, and writing about staying sober, I remember being glad for her, but now I know it was all a lie.

I didn’t really notice that over the next few years Fiona slowly seemed to disappear from the Australian comedy scene. Had I given it a passing thought I likely just assumed that she was busy doing stuff that didn’t make it on to my radar. I wouldn’t have guessed at the hell she was slipping into.

Truths From an Unreliable Witness is a raw, candid account of Fiona’s battle with alcoholism, her repeated failures to curb her addiction over the last decade or so which lead to the end of her marriage, and very nearly her career, multiple stints in rehab facilities, penury, a flirtation with meth, pills, a suicide attempt, and a coma. Fiona makes it clear that her perspective of these events is skewed by her addiction, that her memory is not always reliable, that some details are lost forever to black-outs, but this is the truth she has, and is willing to share.

I missed whatever reporting there may have been on her spectacular fall from grace so all of this came as a surprise to me. I don’t watch “I’m A Celebrity…” on which Fiona appeared in 2018 in the hopes of reviving her career, and won, despite a relapse which led her to drink hand sanitiser stolen from the production crew. It wasn’t her last relapse either, she has experienced several more since, though she now claims she has been sober for almost a year. Alcoholism is a battle never really won. Fiona it seems has come to terms with this, promising not that she is cured, but that she does her best every day not to give in to her addiction.

Fiona hopes that Truths From an Unreliable Witness will be a light in the dark, for others, and herself. Moving, confronting, and powerful I hope it will too.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns


Title: Flying The Nest

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: 29th October 2020, HQ Fiction Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Flying The Nest is a wonderfully engaging women’s fiction novel from bestselling Australian author Rachael Johns.

Ashling Wood is blindsided when her husband of twenty years casually suggests they try nest parenting while she’s busy preparing the oranges for their daughter’s soccer game. Her first instinct is to believe Adrian doesn’t understand what the term means, but he’s clear, he wants a trial separation and feels nest parenting, where the children remain in the house and the parents move in and out on an alternate schedule, is the best solution for them all.

The adjustment is difficult for a heartbroken Ashling who misses her children, ten year old Payton and fourteen year old Saxon, when she’s not with them. Taking on the renovation of a friends seaside cottage in Ragged Point during her ‘off’ weeks is a welcome distraction, and though she is certain the arrangement will not be anything but temporary, as the house undergoes a transformation, so too does Ashling.

I can’t imagine what it would be like should my husband so casually and carelessly announce one ordinary morning that he wanted a separation (touch wood). My sympathy was definitely reserved for Ashling from the start, and even though she seemed stuck in the denial phase for slightly too long, I think Johns portrayal of her character’s emotional state was sensitive and believable. There was a brutal scene in the marriage counselor’s office in particular where I really felt Ashling’s pain, and I was glad she finally got angry at Adrian, and found the impetus to take charge of her life.

The community of Ragged Point is a delightful haven for Ashling. Johns deftly creates the character of a small coastal community, and it’s there that she rediscovers, and is able to nurture, the parts of herself that have been dormant while helping her husband build their podiatry business, and raising their children. I liked the development of Ashling’s relationships with Jedda and Dan, who are great supports, but also have interesting stories of their own that add depth to the story.

Written with heart, humour, and warmth, Flying the Nest is sure to resonate with women who need to redefine their lives, whether because of a relationship breakdown, children leaving home, or other change of circumstances. Ashling’s journey is not without its challenges, but it is ultimately rewarding and inspiring, as is this novel.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Rachael Johns reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui

Title: The Book Collectors of Daraya

Author: Delphine Minoui (Translated by Lara Vergnaud)

Published: 27th October 2020, Picador

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

It was a caption under the photograph of two young Syrian men browsing the shelves of a library that piqued the interest of Delphine Minoui, an award winning French journalist – ‘The Secret Library of Daraya’.

Curious as to how a library could operate in a place like Daraya, but unable to travel to Syria due to the region’s instability, Delphine reached out and made contact with one of the young men in the photo via Skype. Twenty three year old Ahmed was born in Daraya, and remained even after his family fled, determined to document the devastation and support the rebels. One afternoon he was called to help a group carrying books from a deserted, bombed out home, an idea that first struck him as absurd in the middle of a war zone. Yet from the moment he picked up his first book he was struck by what it represented – freedom. As the collection of scavenged tomes grew, a room was found for them in a basement, and the Secret Library of Daraya was born.

Daraya is a suburb on the outskirts of Damascus. Declared a hotbed of terrorists by Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad for daring to peacefully protest his dictatorship, it was placed under siege and ringed with with his forces in 2011. I have to admit to having very little understanding of the conflict in Syria, so I appreciated that Minoui explains the events that led to Daraya’s position and the steady escalation that saw the suburb attacked with missiles, bombs, and even chemical weapons, including sarin and Napalm.

Delphine has written The Book Collectors of Daraya by speaking with Ahmed, and his friends through an unreliable internet connection via Skype and WhatsApp. Initially her focus is on the library; how it came to be, which books are popular, and what it means to the residents of Daraya. It’s a delight to hear how the library and its books provides a refuge and haven from the devastation on their doorstep, how it provides a respite of normalcy, and brings people together. Non-readers become readers, free to choose something other than propaganda, soldiers take books with them to the frontline to read, trade, and discuss, in between wielding their Kalashnikovs.

Unsurprisingly the miracle of the library does take somewhat of a backseat as Delphine learns of the daily hardships and horrors faced by the suburb’s residents. It’s a harrowing tale of danger, deprivation, and starvation as the siege drags on for more than five years. Not content to reduce Daraya to rubble, the Syrian dictator stops any attempts to provide food or essentials, determined to quash the rebels.

There is a little repetition in the narrative of The Book Collectors of Daraya, but I found it well written and readable. Minoui adds a personal perspective, sharing her experience of terror attacks in her home of Istanbul, and in Paris, and freely admits her bias. I think she treats those she speaks with sensitively, and it’s clear she believes that it’s important their story is told. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of photographs that show the library, the men whom Delphine introduces us to, and the streets of Daraya.

The Book Collectors of Daraya is as much about the Syrian civil war, and particularly the experience of the young men who established the library, as it is the library itself. Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, this book speaks of grief, and courage, of resilience, of humanity, and the power of books.

++++++

Available from PanMacmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK

Previous Older Entries