26 October 2016

Review #543: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“But if the world measures a refugee according to the worst story, we will always excuse human suffering, saying it is not yet as bad as someone else's.”

----Victoria Armour-Hileman

Zana Fraillon, an Australian author, has penned a heart breaking and thoroughly compelling tale about refugees in her latest book, The Bone Sparrow that is centered around a young refugee boy living his days with his mother and his elder sister in an Australian detention camp where he spends his days helping his orphan friend to smuggle and with an outsider to help her read the stories about her family history, all the while longing to meet his father across the ocean and to save his soul from such a wretched place.


Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

Subhi is a 10 year old Rohingya refugee from Myanmar living in an Australian detention camp along with his mother and elder sister, where the living conditions are extremely poor, not to mention the worm-filled food that they are fed in a handful amount once a day. But Subhi is content with his life as well as with his unhinged dreams about the Night Sea bringing him gifts from across the ocean, in that detention camp where he along with his best friend, Eli, played all day or sometimes Subhi helped his friend to smuggle things around the camp. But once Eli is sent away to live with older single men in a different part of the camp, Subhi found yet another friend in his rubber duck that one of the guards brought for him and surprisingly he shared about his day with the duck and that duck advised right back him. And when Jimmie, a 10 year old girl manages to enter the camp from the outside, Subhi finds the world even more enthralling and mysterious beyond his imagination, although there are lots of mature decisions that Subhi needs to take before he loses his friends as well as his family in that wretched life forever.

The lives of refugees are hard, that we know, but how painful that are and how unfortunate that are, we rarely get to know that. As least from the inside. And that's what this talented writer has succeeded by penning a strikingly heart breaking story of a little refugee boy born in a detention camp, where the living conditions are so poor that a normal human being cannot imagine to live there even for a day. Through this 10 year old child's voice, the readers will get a thorough insight into the raw and honest world of refugees in detention camps, a human being, with no passport to go back home and at the same time, no permission to settle in a foreign country, its more liking living on the edge of a country, ill-treated daily to remind them that they are outsiders and that they must be grateful towards the country who are allowing them to live and eat for free.

The author's writing style is coherent and extremely brilliant, laced beautifully with deep, heart felt emotions that will make the readers fall for the story. The narration is thoroughly evocative and innocent as the author gracefully captures the voice of a 10 year old boy through whose eyes the readers can easily comprehend the world without flaws. The dialogues are so compelling that it will beg the readers to keep a firm grip on the story till the very last page. The story is unraveled without much layers yet it aspires for a slow pace, so impatient readers must look away, whereas this turns out to be a perfect read for all those who love to enjoy a novel gradually through its folds and progression.

The characters are well developed, complete with realism to make them look believable in the eyes of the readers. The protagonist, Subhi is an innocent little child with a smart mind and knows how to survive mutely in harsh conditions, and his sense of responsibility towards his family is really beyond any words. He reflects impeccable maturity despite of his tender age when it is necessary but his story will keep the readers rooted till the very end. The supporting characters are equally well etched out, especially the characters of Subhi's bossy elder sister, the sweet and loving Jimmie with a plan, the clever rubber duck with a sharp mouth and a strong yet sad young orphan boy, Eli. Each and every characters from this book are bound to leave an impression on the minds of the readers long after the end of this story.

In a nutshell, this heart wrenching story will make the readers shed a tear or two for the characters' plight in a sad, sad dump that they call it home.

Verdict: This poignant yet enlightening journey of a 10 year old refugee boy is a must read.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Hachette India for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne Australia, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. As a child Zana always had her head in a book. This could have been because she was 8 years-old before anyone realized that she was incredibly near-sighted and probably couldn’t see anything further away than the words in a book. But regardless of its origins, her love of reading has remained central to her life and work. ‘I grew up in a house that had a whole room full of books and comfy chairs and this was my favourite place to be.’
Zana studied history at university before training to be a primary school teacher and both these passions influence her approach to writing. Through meticulous research she has also discovered that it is essential to eat copious amounts of chocolate in order to write anything at all.
Zana has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a fictitious book for older readers based on research and recounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation.
Visit her here

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