A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery
I chose this one purely because it surprised me as a reader. It’s so unlike anything I’d usually read but I still came away thinking ‘woah’.
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Lina lives in Iraq. Her mother was taken away by the secret police. Her father is forced into political support for a leader that his employers object to, so he’s fired. Meanwhile Lina is trying to study architecture in a country increasingly torn apart by war and civil war.
It’s described as a love story but I think that’s not quite right. When people say ‘love story’ to me, I think of lots of sighing, love letters, meaningful looks across a room and lots of overly-complicated feelings. This book has absolutely none of these things, apart from having some genuinely complicated emotions and conflicts of morals. Lina falls for the one person it would be the most difficult to have a relationship with, but it’s intense enough to leave an impression. I found myself genuinely trying to think of a way they would be able to be together and the author’s solution left me thinking for days afterwards.
I know that no war is straight forward. I know that they’re much more complicated than just Bad guy vs. Good guy. I know that within a war it’s not just the figureheads involved, it’s the ordinary people too – the students, the doctors, the accountants, the shopkeepers, the writers, the children, everyone. But rarely have I come across a book that drives this message home so completely, I found myself relearning what I already had known. It’s so easy to get inside Lina’s head as her life gets twisted this way and that as the book continues and you follow what’s happening to the very ordinary people around her.
I found myself reading this pretty much straight. Sometimes it could feel a little like the author was trying to drive a particular point, but as a fault it’s not a big one. A novel set during the Iraq war is of course going to have a point driving it but in this case it’s worth it. The interspersed accounts of what happens to Lina’s mother will stay with me for years, I know.
Not a happy read, but one that would be difficult to regret. You can’t say you’ll have enjoyed it, but you will have been absolutely engrossed and Lina and her family will be memorable.