WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi

Average I am afraid to say. I loved her first novel, "The Pearl that Broke Its Shell", and thought I was onto a winner with this equally heartfelt story of an Afghan mother and her three children, making the horrendous and treacherous journey to her sister in England. This refugee themed story has been told numerous times, tragically sad and beyond comprehension for all of us in our comfortable and safe homes, but all too real for thousands of people in the Middle East. You would think it would be easy for a good story teller to convey all that in her writing, and yes, there is plenty of that in this story. But I really felt quite disengaged from it all. The story, the characters - I just did not have that feeling of being with Fereiba who is the mother, in her awful journey, there was a huge disconnect there.  Fereiba's story is narrated in the first person, and as a mother myself, I was trying very hard to relate to her, but it just was not happening. The parallel story of her 13 year old son who is separated from his mother and siblings while in Athens was even more dangerous, but again, I simply felt I was reading about this child's life from a far away place. This was more so, as for whatever reason, Saleem's story is narrated in the third person.

Lots of things happen to this small family, much of it awful, there is plenty of tension and suspense, but it just did not grip me in the way I felt it should. There is danger everywhere, but often I didn't feel the immediacy and horror of that danger. I don't think it is due to over saturation, after all we are absolutely awash in novels set in WWII, and these are stories we need to hear. But it is such a shame that for such a great subject matter, where I really wanted to be engaged, enraged, uplifted and humanised, that I simply wasn't. 

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