Asylum by Rachel Anderson
|Asylum by Rachel Anderson|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A lovely, sometimes painful, story of two immigrants to the UK. By turns funny, sad and serious, this is a humane look at a controversial issue and will give great pause for thought.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Sunday arrived in the UK at Lowestoft. He'd have preferred Iceland, which, so he'd heard, was cold and treeless but democratic and respectful of human life. Sent from a refugee camp by his Auntie Pru, Sunday is very religious and very respectful of human life, unlike the militia who destroyed his village. So it's difficult for Sunday to become a Muslim. But that's what he has to do. His papers confiscated by a shady people trafficker, Sunday finds himself the unpaid caretaker at Hawk Rise, a condemned London tower block. And his name isn't Sunday any more; it's Piet Ali.
Rosa and her mother also find themselves at Hawk Rise, dumped there by an overworked welfare worker with good intentions but few resources. They're waiting for their asylum application to be processed. And their lives have been touched by violence and conflict, just like Sunday's. Rosa isn't quiet and respectful like Sunday, though. She is fiercely independent and strongly protective of her ill mother.
Going by the scene-setting, you'd think Asylum was going to be a bleak book, wouldn't you? But it isn't. Yes, the setting is bleak and I think many readers will be shocked at the conditions in which some asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to this country live and the way in which they are treated. The behaviour of the authorities ranges from neglect through vague and powerless sympathy to cruel authoritarianism. And Anderson doesn't shy away from this. But she also gives us two wonderful central characters who are very different, but who are both interesting, vital, and, most importantly, good human beings.
She also gives us a host of minor characters - inhabitants of Hawk Rise - who are equally good human beings. And they range from the slightly cooky to the downright eccentric. They're a rainbow patchwork of people from every country and walk of life but they share kindness and generosity of spirit. They share food with Sunday and try to help Rosa create a garden in which she can grow food. They're funny and nice and they do their best to show neighbourliness to two needy children.
I really enjoyed this story. It's deeply humane and has a great sense of humour. And it approaches an important and controversial issue in a way everyone can identify with.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
They might also like Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah, the powerful story of a boy whose family was caught up in the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and who is fighting to stay in the UK. Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy is a subtle call for inclusion in a story about a Polish girl in Liverpool.