Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Mother Tongue - Julie Mayhew

Although this book is set in Russia as I read it I felt it had an almost universal location, it could have been set anywhere in the world. My premise was substantiated by the writer herself in her afterword.

I found this a remarkable story by a novelist hitherto unknown to me. I am grateful to Nudge Books for giving me the opportunity to read it.

I am keen not to offer spoilers of any kind so I will offer no more than the briefest of summaries. Darya Pavlovna loses her younger sister in a terrorist siege. We see how that affects her and her family. The event causes her to seek a new life in Moscow which she believes will solve everything. A rite of passage novel? Maybe. 

There was something almost surreal about the experience. At times it was if I were reading a dystopian novel until a contemporary reference made it clear I wasn’t. It is based on an actual event. But that is almost irrelevant. That isn’t meant to sound heartless. The universality of the book allows the reader to embrace the event as almost symbolic of any act of terrorism. The narrative flows flawlessly making it a very easy book to read but with themes that are far from easy to digest nor should they be. A deceptive tale that makes us think more than we realise.

Given the world we live in today how many of us ever stop to think about how we would behave and react when an act of terrorism strikes at our very heart? This book encourages us to consider this in a very real way. You might be forgiven for thinking that such a theme would make for a sombre read and indeed it is heart wrenching in places. But ultimately there is redemption of a kind and upliftment.

I think one of the strengths of this book is that it can be enjoyed on several levels. The characters are very real, very human. especially Darya the main protagonist. For it is very much her story. Yes, her sister had a mother and a father and other siblings who are devastated by her loss but it is Darya who grabs at our hearts and pushes the reader to consider aspects of love, family, ambition.

And we follow her story as she makes erroneous decisions and mistakes that serve to teach her of life and love. Learning of her fellow man, the good people and the less than good people. If we allow ourselves to, we can grow with her as she finds her way to make sense of the tragedy.

This is a book  that leaves you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it. 

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