Wednesday 15 August 2012

228. A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery

A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery
Published August 2012 Harper Collins

From the publisher:

This is the story of Lina, a teenage girl from Baghdad. It starts in 2003, as the bombs begin to fall on the city.
In it, Lina fights to survive, to find a life for herself amid the chaos of war, to find what happened to her mother in the years before the war, when she was taken away by the secret police. She also falls in love, with the one person she should never have fallen in love with.
It is many things. It is a love story, both for a country and for a person. It is about an amazing girl, growing up in the worst circumstances imaginable. It contains a necklace, that was lost but might still be found. And that is all we can say, without ruining this extraordinary and beautiful modern fairy tale...

Unlike yesterdays book, this is not a true story. This book has been marketed as a 'beautiful contemporary fairy tale' and 'an impossible love', neither of these descriptions ring true for me.  It's the story of Lina, a Christian girl living in Baghdad, she lives with her father, her mother missing presumed dead.  Her life changes on the day the first bombs are dropped.

Lina is like any other teenage girl, she is worrying about exams, looking forward to University and becoming an architect.  When Baghdad starts to crumble, her world changes.  She needs to be escorted by a man at all times, is shunned by her non Christian friends, and while it's not part of her culture she begins to wear the hijab and forgo her jeans for long dresses.

Because of their beliefs her father loses his job, and the only work he can get is working as translator for the American soldiers, it is dangerous, as they all soon find out, when he is shot and killed.  This is when we first meet Steve, the American soldier, he is the one who tells Lina how her father died.

Now orphaned, Lina goes to live with her Aunt and Uncle, and while she continues to go to University, her Aunt is against it, and believes it will do her no good, and she should settle down and find a husband.  This is of course not what Lina wants.  She wants a career, and to see the world, and her shameful secret is that the one boy who has caught her eye is Steve, someone who she can't be with.

For this book to be called a romance is odd because for me it doesn't seem to be an integral part of the story.  Yes she may have had feelings for Steve, the American soldier, but I saw it more as someone she could be 100% honest and open with, and this friendship kept her going.  He was also the one who made her realise she didn't have to stay, that she had another option. 

To me the book was more about family and loyalty.  Lina had dreams and ambitions, but when events mean that she must make a decision between herself and her family, she knows that she really has no choice at all.  The story of Lina's mother is also told in this book, there are chapters in this book that look at what happened to her when she disappeared, these chapters are titled Whatever happened to Sacha?  It's here we learn of her abduction, and her months of imprisonment that included beatings rape and torture, cold blooded killings that she was witness to and her last days being kept in an underground cell.  These are not easy chapters to read, but show that the memories of her family stayed with her until the end.

My concern with a book like this is whether the author has a connection to the story.  Was she there during this time?  Has she been to Iraq at all?  Who did she talk to get a background for the story?  I am sure that there was much research involved, and I would have loved to see a note from the author in the back.  Maybe it's because I am an adult, but with a story about a culture removed from the author's own, I like to hear why the author wanted to tell this particular story.  I haven't found out much yet, but maybe I will after a bit more 'Googling'.

Who will like this book: Girls age 15+
Read it if you like: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

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