Fractured by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Review published on January 27, 2016.

I think what I liked most about this remarkably accomplished debut novel is that it is so intelligent in its approach. The author never falls into easy or banal assumptions, never falls into the cliché trap and never lets her characters become stereotypes.

On one level, the book is, indeed, a thriller. Peter Maguire, a journalist, is kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia. His fate is uncertain and he is well aware he could be killed at any time. Fast-paced and exciting, the plot revolves around his ultimate fate. But his adventure is only part of the narrative. Told from three points of view – Peter himself, his mother, a retired journalist, and Abdi, a young Somalian who is coerced into guarding Peter – and with a slow reveal, we gradually learn each of the characters’ back stories and share with them in turn the difficult choices and decisions they have to make now in this crisis as well as those they had to deal with earlier in their lives.

This is a thoroughly convincing account of life in volatile Somalia – a country I knew little about before reading this book and which I now feel I have a real grasp of. Al-Shabbab, AMISCON – I’d never heard of them, to my shame. And although Islamic fundamentalism, jihadism, recruitment of extremists and hostage taking are all common topics on our daily news, the author here puts a human face to the issues and even-handedly makes all her characters, both good and evil, in some way accessible if not understandable. How we act is impinged on by others far more than we might like to think. Vivid descriptions of Somalia and daily life there, the atrocities that occur far too often, the violence and bloodshed which we normally have filtered for us by our TV screens, gain an immediacy in this compelling and thoughtful novel, which is well-written, well-paced, and very enjoyable indeed. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Mandy Jenkinson

Fractured by Clar Ni Chonghaile
Legend Press pbk Feb 2016
9781785079825
246pp

 

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