14 May 2015

What Was Never Said

A book review by Youth Ambassador Noa Marson.

What Was Never Said (Short Books £7.99) is an insightful, touching and thrilling novel written by Emma Craigie, author of Chocolate Cake with Hitler. Recently available, this powerful novel alternates from the past and present, revealing difficult past experiences and inspiring risks.

The main character, Zahra, migrated from Somalia to Bristol with her family during the civil war. After living her English life in fear of FGM due to losing her older sister Rahma to the practice, her GCSE year meets her with a decision that changes her and her younger sister Samsam’s life.

“The woman in black lets go of her bag and moves towards me. She squeezes my arm with her skeletal fingers. I remember the feeling. “How you have grown,” she says quietly. She bends down to Samsam, “Hello, little girl.”

Early in the book she recounts a harrowing experience in which she hears her sister’s screams after being taken away from joyful festivities one evening in Somalia - the last memory she has of her. Therefore when met with the “cutter” years later that she believes to be responsible Rahma’s life, in an attempt to rescue her sister and herself from the danger of FGM, they escape from home, embarking on a challenging but important journey to safety.

From spending a night in a neighbour’s house and an uncomfortable car journey to London, she meets her cousin Yasmin who takes them to safety. However, all is not well yet. Rahma’s and Sam-sam’s father is taken to hospital after a fire at the mosque, and when back in Bristol they must again bravely escape the dangers which haunted her past. 

I strongly recommend reading this book to gain an accurate insight, which addresses a sensitive topic very well. Craigie epitomises the practice of FGM beautifully. She writes “I am sure your parents only want the best for you, but sometimes people are confused - what is tradition and what is the true teaching of the prophet. The practice of cutting girls is a tradition going back to the times of the Pharaohs, but it is not a teaching of Islam.” This portrays a vital message: the importance of education. 


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