Archive | June 2024

The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q Rauf

True Friendship

The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q Rauf is a marvellous debut novel. It is a book that I just could not put down. It is suitable for ages ten years and over. In fact, it is a perfect book for anyone as it highlights the plight of refugees.

The book is written in the first person through the eyes of a nine year old living in London. Her school is a cosmopolitan one where children of all nations welcome the boy at the back of the class.

The only blot on the school landscape is that of the school bullies. We see them through the eyes of a child. We totally understand her thoughts and find her feelings easy to empathise with.

This is a tale of friendship that will go the extra mile in order to help improve a life.

Onjali Q Rauf writes through the eyes of a child, explaining her fears and her questions. There is humor in her words and sometimes well known phrases are heard and misquoted wrongly. “We didn’t say anything after that because sometimes you can tell grown-ups won’t listen to you anymore. Usually they say… ‘I’ve said my peas.’ “

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The Girl Behind The Gates by Brenda Davies

Home At Last

The Girl Behind The Gates by Brenda Davies is an absolutely heartbreaking novel. It is the true story of Nora who was incarcerated in a mental hospital in 1939, and was still there in 1981 when a new psychiatrist, Janet, began to work there.

 This is a book of two halves. Nora’s early story in the first part, and her story as she interacts with Janet in part two.

This is a story that will shock and horrify the reader because it is true. It happened. This Nora’s story.

Nora had a home, not a particularly loving one, as her father was a bully.

In 1939 Nora fell in love as a seventeen year old and became an expectant unmarried mother. For a Catholic family, ruled with an iron rod, this was an unforgiveable sin. Nora is continually told that she is bad, and it is a lie that she tells herself. “Her mother does still love her, even though she’s wicked.” Nora is incarcerated in order to ‘pay’ for her ‘sin’.

The modern reader is shocked and horrified by the treatment of the patients – six hundred in 1939 in just one institution. This book should make us both justifiably angry, and very sad for the innocent lives locked away. In 1939 we read that “Such people [unmarried expectant mothers], since 1927 termed ‘moral defectives’, include those such as criminals, alcoholics and prostitutes – and also unmarried mothers.” This is beyond horrifying. It is appalling that innocent lives were hidden away for decades. That young girls were seen as infected with sin, and that they could infect others and also pass their ‘sin’ onto their baby. It is truly shocking to read of what happened at the birth of Nora’s baby.

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Just For The Summer by Melody Carlson

Positively Charming

Just For The Summer by Melody Carlson is a positively charming contemporary Christian novel that I just did not want to end.

Melody Carlson has created an eclectic mix of characters to entertain the reader. They were all realistic, with some having kinder character traits than others. Curmudgeonly old Jack was easy to imagine. His way of doing business was in direct contrast to slick but cold-hearted Diana. Likewise, warm-hearted Ginny was the direct opposite to career-aspiring Jacqueline. The characters complemented each other, showing that different skill sets are needed at different times. Most important of all, is having a kind heart.

The premise of the book is a job swap for the summer. Ginny, who works for a top Seattle hotel, swaps this for Jacqueline’s Grandad’s fishing lodge, just for the summer. Two managers. Two different skill sets. Two locations. One summer. It all equals a wonderful recipe for a wonderful read.

Clean fresh air and an outdoor life contrast with slick, city living. One location brings freedom, the other smothers. It all depends on personality type as to which place characters will bloom best.

We see the importance of having faith in God and in building that relationship through prayer. When we don’t know what to do, we must pray for guidance. “Ginny prayed a silent prayer – asking God to guide her – then she waited.” We must remember to take turns to talk and to listen to God.

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The Winter Killings by Wes Markin

Linking The Past & Present

The Winter Killings by Wes Markin is a marvellous contemporary novel that I just could not put down. It is part of The Yorkshire Murders series but can be read as a stand-alone. For maximum enjoyment I recommend reading the previous books first. It will enable you to track character development.

Once more we meet up with the police team trying to solve present day crimes. Cold case crimes have links in the present. Long buried secrets are unearthed that threaten innocent lives today.

We witness the destructive power of revenge when it has ruled a life. Back in the 1990’s, a future was stolen on a day. A character has never forgotten.

There is the theme of nature or nurture. A family in the past has committed horrendous acts of cruelty. Could these traits lie dormant in the genes? Are monsters made by society? Or bad genes? The fear of the latter dominates a character’s thinking.

In present day we see an undercover police officer going above and beyond. His future was stolen from him in the past. Now he lives with one eye and his heart on heaven. Readers of previous books will know of his personal tragedy.

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