Hidden Fires by Sairish Hussain

Tragic & Heartbreaking

Hidden Fires by Sairish Hussain is a powerful and absolutely heart-breaking novel that will mess with your emotions. It will make you angry as you witness the terrible consequences of man’s inhumanity to man, whilst simultaneously making you weep.

The novel is mainly set in Bradford in 2017, just at the time of the Grenfell Tower fire. The main characters are an eighty year old grandfather and his sixteen year old granddaughter. They are similar but different as both try to deal with their problems alone, whilst pretending all is well. “We’ve drifted away into our own corners of ourselves.” For the granddaughter, it is the bullies at school. For the grandfather it is guilt and loss that has followed him down seventy years after the dreadful events of partition in 1947 India and Pakistan.

The grandfather is not the only male, his age hiding guilty secrets connected with partition. Events haunted a generation. The reader is horrified and saddened for what theses young boys saw in 1947 – events, so shocking, they never left them. “We had to run for our lives from people who looked just like us, spoke like us, lived beside us.”

As her mother is ill and her father is a workaholic, the granddaughter is used to being alone. Her father is a social worker who helps other people’s kids but misses the trauma in his own daughter. “He’s too busy.”

The reader has great sympathies for both lead characters. We understand their isolation and loneliness. It is heartbreaking to hear the granddaughter say “Maybe I’m unlovable.”

There are many hard-hitting topics – partition which we need to be educated on, bullying, dementia, loss, long term illness, self-harm. We see how dementia affects the individual and the wider family. “Watching my father fade away.” It changes our loved ones beyond recognition.

There are moments that are beautiful to witness too. The developing bond between the two lead characters as they go from two virtual strangers to two perfectly choreographed loving family members. Awkwardness becomes a seamlessly perfect sequence as the share preparing a meal.

Hidden Fires is such a powerful novel. I could not put it down. It is a very necessary read as we need to know what happened in the past, in the hope that history does not repeat itself.

I received a free copy via the publishers. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.


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