Hinterland by Caroline Brothers

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Hinterland by Caroline Brothers

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Buy Hinterland by Caroline Brothers at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Two boys set out on a journey from Afghanistan to England, with a little money and a lot of hope. Haunting, touching and beautifully written, this is a book you won’t forget.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1408817759

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Aryan (14) and his brother Kabir (aged 8) are refugees, fleeing the horrors of their homeland, Afghanistan. Equipped only with some money sewn into a belt and stories of a promised land called England, they learn about desperation, misplaced trust and other lessons normally kept from children.

The author, Caroline Brothers, an Australian-born journalist who writes for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, has met many Aryans and Kabirs. In this book she brings them to the world’s attention in a devastatingly unforgettable way. When I think about journalistic writing, succinct and factual impartiality comes to mind. This author’s style is a whole lot more than that. Ms Brothers draws the reader in with almost 3-dimensional creative prose: one can feel the water seeping through the boys’ thin trainers and picture the chaos after a car bomb has ignited an Afghan market.

Everything is viewed through the eyes of the boys, exceptionally well-drawn characters. Man-child hybrids, forged and toughened by experience, the book is peppered with reminders of their youth. From time to time their situation fades into the background as they behave like children for short interludes. This creates the humour that wouldn’t be expected in amongst such subject material. However, the reality of their situation is never far away, adding poignancy. For instance Aryan has made it fun for Kabir to learn, mantra-style, Kabul-Tehran-Istanbul-Athens-Rome-Paris-London. However, it’s not a game for Aryan. The game-like process reassures him that Kabir would find his way to England if Aryan died.

Having said this, emotion isn’t laid on with a trowel. The story develops as it develops, without melodrama, giving the reader the choice and ability to feel their own emotion without apparent author manipulation. There may well be manipulation but it doesn’t show – a rare and welcome skill in today’s literary world.

This is not an easy read but it is a wonderful book. I meant to read a couple of pages after an evening out... I couldn’t put it down and read the whole lot. It holds you whilst the pages turn and the horror and frustration of this heart-rending journey unfold before you. You should read this book, you and anyone who has ever thought that 'all immigrants have it easy'; anyone who has ever mused over 'sending them all back'. Books like this change hearts and ideas. For the sake of the Aryans and Kabirs on the road at the moment, we can only hope.

I would like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing for giving thebookbag.co.uk a copy for review.

If you've enjoyed this and would like to read non-fiction about a different aspect of life in Afghanistan, try Two Sons in a War Zone: Afghanistan: The True Story of a Father's Conflict by Stephen Wynn or, if you would prefer fiction A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Buy Hinterland by Caroline Brothers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hinterland by Caroline Brothers at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Hinterland by Caroline Brothers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hinterland by Caroline Brothers at Amazon.com.

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