The Year from Jahannam by Shams Uddin

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The Year from Jahannam by Shams Uddin

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The Wright family's blog reveals a hellish - literally - year in which their comfortable lives disintegrate into a state of constant fear. Enjoyable and unusal story that presents a traditional fable told using very contemporary mores and tropes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 223 Date: April 2012
Publisher: Suddin Impact
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0957175205

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The Wright family begin a blog in January 2011. They all want to celebrate a new start after the turmoil of recent years. Father Richard had been a casualty of the financial crisis, working for Lehman Brothers at the time of its collapse, and the ensuing chaos had affected the entire family one way or another. But Richard retrained, secured a new job and has recently earned a huge bonus. At last the family are back on track and enjoying the fruits of hard labour.

But it's not long before things start to go wrong. The family cat disappears. Household items go missing. Strange noises are heard at night. At first, it's easy to explain these things away. But when Tina starts talking to an imaginary friend, dark figures appear in the bedrooms, the new car is stolen and the house is broken into, the Wrights begin to realise these individual events are all connected. They find themselves in a living version of Jahannam - the Islamic equivalent of hell - and must fight for their very lives. But the real question is Why us?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Year from Jahannam and my only criticisms are technical ones. The book would be improved by a thorough edit. There are unnecessarily capitalised nouns sprinkled throughout. Punctuation is precarious - with commas where they shouldn't be and missing where they're needed. There is a line break between paragraphs and although blogposts would have them, they just don't look right in a book. These may sound like petty carps but they are a barrier to ease of reading and a professional feel.

Otherwise, this is a remarkably entertaining book. Each member of the Wright family has a distinct personality that emerges vividly from the way they express themselves in their blogposts. Richard is driven and ambitious but also upright and principled with a strong commitment to his family. Sarah is much more sensitive and attuned to feelings and emotions. Her first impulse is to protect her family. Deborah and Jeff are typical teenagers. Deb loves clothes and is interested in boys. Jeff is obsessed with computer games and thinks girls are a race apart, best avoided. My younger son would agree! We don't hear from Tina until the very end of the book - at seven, she's too young to blog - so I'll let you find out about her for yourselves.

As the year goes on and each member of the Wright family becomes more and more aware of the supernatural forces threatening them, real tension builds. I had no idea what was going to happen and neither did the Wrights.

But what I really enjoyed was the picture painted of life for Londoners in 2011. The Wright family talk about what's going on in the world, so we see their reactions to the financial crisis, the Japanese tsunami, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, the London riots, and even the hacking of the PlayStation Network. They talk about particular video games, particular TV shows, school and exams, what they're enjoying eating, even their journeys to work. Richard uses financial lingo, Sarah's in tune with how people think and feel, and the two teenagers use fashionable argot. Their great-great-grandchildren could read The Year from Jahannam and completely understand what life was like for them even though the plot follows a fantasy horror arc.

This is a traditional moral fable presented using very contemporary mores and tropes, and I commend it to you.

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Buy The Year from Jahannam by Shams Uddin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Year from Jahannam by Shams Uddin at


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