Book review

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo (2000)

I think there has always been terrorism, somewhere in the world. The thing about terrorism is that it affects ordinary people as they try to live their ordinary lives. And it affects children just as much as adults. This book tells the story of what happened to Sade and Femi when their mother became a victim of terrorism.

The Solaja family live in Nigeria. Mr Solaja is a journalist on a weekly newspaper. He writes the truth about all the injustices he sees that are going on around him in his own country, the inequalities and the corruption.

The truth is the truth. How can I write what's untrue?

That is what Mr Solaja says. But it takes a special kind of bravery to go on speaking the truth even when those around you, those you love, are put in danger because of what you are saying, doesn't it? Perhaps Mr Solaja should have foreseen the dangers to his family and sent them away to a place of safety long before anything could happen to them? But I think it is probably always difficult to predict the terrorist's capacity for evil.

Anyway, one moment it is an ordinary school day and Sade is packing her schoolbag. Next moment, there are two sharp cracks and a cry, and Sade's family life is broken for ever. Her mother has been shot outside their own home. Try to imagine the shock and devastation. But things move too fast for Sade or her brother to feel the shock, for now their father knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that he must send his children somewhere safe. His options are limited. He has no passport because it has been taken away from him earlier. He arranges for the children to travel to London under false names and enter the country illegally. What else can he do in his dire predicament? He tells them he will join them later when he can arrange a passport for himself. Meanwhile, they will stay with their uncle Dele in London.

That is the plan. But it fails. Uncle Dele is missing, and twenty four hours after the brutal murder of their mother the children find themselves abandoned, penniless and cold, in London. Well, thank goodness, the social services rescue them and find them a temporary foster home. They are helped to obtain temporary permission to stay in the country. They even start school. But all the time, the children are too frightened to reveal their true identities until they know for sure that their father has also escaped from Nigeria.

This is a nerve-wracking story. The children face all kinds of difficulties before they are finally re-united with their father in London. And all the time that they are struggling with their present difficulties, they are also trying to come to terms with the loss of their mother.

Next time you hear about refugees on the news, spare a thought for what they have been through before they get to their place of safety.

What can I read next?

Beverley Naidoo has written another gripping book set in South Africa. Have a look at:

  • No Turning Back

If you are interested in what happens to refugees, you might like to look at this one by Elizabeth Laird, about a young Kurdish girl who finds herself unexpectedly at Heathrow Airport:

Also this one by Bernard Ashley, about a young African boy soldier who finds himself whisked off to the east end of London:

Gaye Hicyilmaz writes about refugees. Have a look at this one about the arrival of Romanian refugees in Dover:

Slightly different issue, but plenty of drama and injustice, have a look at this one by Suzanne Fisher Staples:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile: