Book review

Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis (2002)

Can you imagine how it would be, to find yourself alone in a world at war?

I think it would be a terrifying experience. I think it is for Parvana in this story, but Parvana copes by thinking only of the problems that the day brings. She survives from one day to the next.

Parvana lives in Afghanistan. Her family became separated in the war, and after the death of her father, she finds herself alone, but not for long:

It was eerie standing by herself in the deserted village. She felt as though she were being watched, but there was no one left to see.
A thin wail drifted on the breeze. It sounded like a kitten. Parvana followed the sound.
The cry came from the last house. Parvana stood at the doorway. Part of the ceiling had fallen in, and she looked over the rubble for the source of the sound.
Then she saw it. It wasn't a kitten.
In a corner of the room was a baby, lying on its back. a piece of dirty cloth barely covered it, as if it had been blown there by the wind. The baby cried without energy. It cried as if it had been crying for a long time and no longer expected anyone to come.
Parvana went to it.
"Did they leave you all alone? Come on, you poor thing." She lifted the little creature into her arms. "Did your people get scared and forget about you?"
Then she heard the flies and saw the dead woman crushed under the rubble.

Of course, it is hard work for Parvana to look after a baby as well as herself, but it is good to have some company. She manages to feed them both from scraps of mouldy food scavenged from the wreck of the village, and then she moves on, carrying the baby with her.

Where is she going? Parvana has no idea, but she is looking for her mother and sisters and brother. She does not know where they are, but she keeps on walking. Because of the restrictive rules of the Taliban militia who are in power in Afghanistan, Parvana dresses herself in boys' clothes and wears her hair short. Women are not allowed outside unaccompanied.

This is a simply written story which will show you a world of pain and poverty, hunger and neglect. This is what war brings to the people of Afghanistan.

What can I read next?

Parvana's Journey is a sequel. If you enjoy it, have a look at:

  • The Breadwinner

If you are interested in how children can survive in a war zone, you might like to look at this diary written by a young girl living in Sarajevo during the civil war:

If you really enjoyed the account of Parvana's journey across Afghanistan, you could try this one by Ian Seraillier, about a group of refugee children crossing Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War:

Or you could have a look at this classic by Anne Holm:

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