Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Dalila by Jason Donald

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought: 

I started reading this in public but within four pages, decided it would be likely to provoke unrestrained bursts of emotion, so took it home. A wise decision.

Dalila arrives in London from Kenya, escaping violence and danger. She knows what she has to say, she’s ready to act the part she’s been given, she will do anything to escape the brutality and indignity she suffered at home. She’s alone and everything is different. Almost everything.

The people she has paid to help her are out for what they can get, so Dalila is left homeless, friendless and adrift. From being a college student with a future to a fearful bundle in a doorway. Charity volunteers help her survive and apply for asylum and so begins a day-to-day existence and an epic battle with bureaucracy.

The system relocates her to Glasgow while she is processed. Her isolation both increases and lessens as she meets other refugees and asylum-seekers, local people and charitable volunteers. She makes tentative friendships, builds bonds but all on a fragile web of hope.

If they grant her Leave to Remain.

Meanwhile, the people who arranged her trip are still seeking their cash cow. She is collateral and they want her back.

Dalila’s story both heals your heart and breaks it. People are kind, cruel, thoughtful, caring, careless and ignorant. The small gestures and daily routines give us flashes of optimism. One woman’s journey makes us believe in, or at least hope for, the human race.

A novel to help us understand the global by engaging with the personal, this book leaves you profoundly shaken. It also offers a real insight into a situation reported with more hysteria than humanity.
Everyone should read this.  We are all responsible for Dalila.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked:
The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla, A Country of Refuge by Lucy Popescu, or Minaret by Leila Aboulela.

Avoid if you don’t like: 
Grim truths about the immigration system, reality for refugees & asylum-seekers, feelings for other people.

Ideal accompaniments: Porridge and pan-cooked tea.

Available on Amazon

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