Publisher: Myrmidon Books
Price: £ 12.99
Mr Weston has tweeted that this book is based on fact...I warn you now, that makes it most upsetting! It is the story of Haoua over about 1 year of her life from living with her family in a village in Niger to moving to the city where she marries an older man against her will.
The sentence structure is as if Haoua has written it. I see a lot of French and Italian articles that are translated and read exactly like this book. I don't know if that was deliberate but it adds to the tone. I am however, unsure of the language, I feel as if it is slightly too mature for a 12 year old. Admittedly she has been educated and forced to grow up quickly but surely a 12 year old would still not be so adult when it comes to turn of phrase. There was however a cracking use of the word Dandy! That word is not used enough! OO also, the sections in Haoua's voice are starkly contrasted with letters from her sponsors in Ireland. Everything from the language to letter content seems like polar opposites. It also showed that a lot of people have no understanding or concept as to what life is like for people like Haoua.
The entire novel highlights the many types of hardship felt not only by the people of Niger but all over the world. At one point even Haoua feels sorry for some people and thinks they have a hard life! That made me feel really terrible, she has a lot of love and compassion for people that in many instances I lack. This novel has indeed made me aware of the terrible lives and situations people in Niger suffer. To some of them it isn't so bad I am sure but in this instance it is. There is no freedom. I was aware of child brides and the like but sometimes you need more information to make it seem real. I recently wrote an Editor's Comment on blood oil in Nigeria and our August issue focuses on Africa so I have learnt a great deal about the continent of late and the difficulties its people face.
You can tell that Weston has done a lot of research to write this novel. From geography to politics to the Niger way of village life to religious practices. It is indeed most impressive. I do however find it funny that middle aged (sorry if you aren't) and middle class white men write books from the perspective of a female whose life is so alien to them. The second I started reading this, I thought of Memoirs of a Geisha and how it falls in to this category. The entire country seems to be divided by politics, patriotism and religious faith. This again would have taken a lot of work as it is set in the late 90s. I do wonder if Weston set it then because that is the time in which the actual story is based on occurred, or, if it was set then to add to the story. Or, it could just be the logistics of getting a book from manuscript to print, I know it can take a while.
The chapters set in the hospital were most distressing and led me to have great admiration for people who go to countries such as Niger to help! They are wonderful people! The road trip section was my favourite despite the sad event that resulted in it. There was hope in this section, the lack of prejudice and the family bonding were lovely! Archie and Abdel were fantastic characters!
One death in this book upset me more than anything else. But I think what upset me most was the very detached manner in which it was dealt with. You were told of it in a line or two. No emotion was showed. It was a shock to see the death dealt with like this as the character was so important and loved.
The last portion of the book when Haoua is married and the events following are the most upsetting yet satisfying part of the entire book. I had thought that the end would come like that and I was pleased. I feel I would have probably done the same in her situation. It truly is devastating that such things happen!