Monday, 2 June 2014

My Name is Parvana

My Name is Parvana
Deborah Ellis
Oxford, OUP, 2014, 240p

Sometimes, stories can be very difficult to read, especially those based in fact. Deborah Ellis carries out thorough research before writing, visiting refugee camps across Russia and Pakistan to hear the stories of people just like her protagonist, Parvana.

Parvana is being held captive by the American army in Afghanistan, and is refusing to talk. She is accused of bombing her own school, which was run by her mother and run for the education of local girls. Parvana is a well-educated, intelligent young girl, but the American army simply see her as another threat. The novel jumps back and forth between Parvana's imprisonment and her time at school, explaining how she has been mistaken for a terrorist.

My Name is Parvana follows on from previous novels by Deborah Ellis, including The Breadwinner. These previous stories told of Parvana's journey as a refugee, but now she has a home and a purpose. Yet, not everyone sees the education of women as a positive, empowering force for good. Parvana and her family are threatened and feared, and have a lot of work to do to prove their value.

I enjoyed reading this novel because the language was accessible and the characters were likeable. I like that it jumped back and forth between past and present, meaning there was constanly something happening. I was not hugely gripped by the story, but I cannot articulate why.

Especially seeing as Parvana is such an inspirational protagonist: brave and self-assured, despite all she is up against. Her story is harrowing but honest. Ellis is not writing to evoke emotion - this story is no tear-jerker - but writes to inform. Her novels are topical and relevant, making real an experience that is unimaginable for many of her readers.

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