Another Kind of Loving by Sylvie Nickels

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Another Kind of Loving by Sylvie Nickels

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A page-turning look at the life of a child transplanted from war-torn Sarajevo to leafy Oxfordshire. Excellent character development and a very good plot. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 294 Date: July 2005
Publisher: Anthony Rowe Publishing Services
ISBN: 978-1905200122

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Mike Hennessy was a journalist whose speciality was the war-torn parts of the world and October 1992 found him in Sarajevo visiting a children's home to get a story. The orphanage was on the right side of town – away from the main barrage – but it had few other advantages. There was no heat and little food or water, but it was here that he found Jasminka, part Serb, part Bosniak and eleven or twelve years old. In a phone call to his wife Mike suggested that perhaps Jasminka could come and stay with them for a while.

Sara's life couldn't have been more different. She and Mike had their home in rural Oxfordshire and Sara's life revolved around the village magazine and her shop which sold collectables. Mike would have loved to have a child but Sarah is infertile. She didn't resent Jasminka's arrival, but didn't exactly enthuse about it either. It was slow – and hard – going at first, but gradually Jasminka connected with a few people, found her feet and made a particular friend of Azzie, originally from Iran. The traumatised Jasminka evolved into Minkie, perhaps a little different from the other school children, but, in the circumstances she seemed to do very well.

Children do not transplant well. Minkie knows that her father is dead but she still believes that her mother is alive despite information to the contrary. She longs to return to Sarajevo, despite the strong relationship which develops between her and Mike and eventually she begins to wonder who she is and where she should call home.

I picked this book up at lunch time on Saturday. I wasn't planning on reading it; I simply wanted to get an idea of what it was like so that I decide which of our reviewers would enjoy it most. I was eighty pages in before it struck me that there was no way that I was passing this book to anyone else – and that I didn't actually need to lean against the office wall to read it. I could sit down. I think it was Alexander McCall Smith who said that a book had to grab you from the first sentence and this one hooked me, reeled me in and wouldn't let go until I got to the last page. And I really didn't know how it was going to work out.

I loved Minkie from the moment we met her as a fierce young girl grasping a Winnie the Pooh book. Sylvie Nickels knows young people and Minkie's development is utterly convincing: I know that she couldn't have turned out any other way than she did – this is very sure-footed character development and it runs through the other characters too.

Sara is a little selfish, but finding yourself guardian to a young girl without much warning is a lot to ask of anyone. It's easy to see how she slides into an affair with Berry, whom she knew (perhaps a little too well) when she was at school. Mike's away a lot of the time and the fact that he's usually somewhere dangerous means that she either has to worry constantly – or have a little distance between them. Berry fills that distance more than adequately. Mike has his own history to hide and eventually to explore as he senses the growing distance between Sara and himself.

Sylvie Nickels knows what I still have a habit of referring to as 'the former Yugoslavia', having been a travel writer specialising in the area which she's known for over forty years. She has it perfectly, and not just from the point of view of the landscape. She understands the area and she knows the history. This is a book written from a depth of knowledge and not from research.

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels, the final part of the trilogy. We also enjoyed The Other Side of Silence by Sylvie Nickels.

For another look at the problems encountered by refugees from the former Yugoslavia, we can recommend What Is She Doing Here? by Kate Clanchy and Bluebird: A Memoir by Vesna Maric.

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Buy Another Kind of Loving by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Another Kind of Loving by Sylvie Nickels at


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