Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Other Side of Truth, Beverley Naidoo

            'A lie has seven winding paths, the truth one straight road.'
The Other Side of Truth tells the story of Nigerian child Sade and her brother Femi, who witness an appalling murder in their family: a murder that comes as a direct result of  the political opinions their jounalist father has been voicing in his articles. Worried for the safety of his children, he then sends Sade and Femi to England, a place where they will be safe and he can later join them. But after being screwed over by the person accompanying them, a series of bad things happen and Sade and Femi find that England is anything but safe.
The story follows the twists and turns of two terrified children, alone and clueless in a scary new place, as well as the role that social services has to play. I think Naidoo portrays these elements very well, in fact in parts it is so true to life that it brought back some serious memories for me of the African young people I used to key work in London. In the story, Sade refers to the woman that brought them to England as 'the lady,' which is exactly like the Ethiopian girl I worked with who would talk about 'the man,' who accompanied her. I realised in reading The Other side of Truth that it was probably fear preventing her from being more specific or giving more details- something that used to aggravate me during her important meetings with solicitors. The children in the book are too scared to give the woman's real name. 
Sade's feelings and both her old and new relationships are put across very well in the book. The bullying that happens is huge to her and through her eyes I really felt like a twelve year old girl, afraid of those who threaten her. The only thing that let the young people down in the story was some of the British dialogue, which I didn't think was particularly believable, although this could be simply due to it being outdated (the book is set in 1995).
As the children become more and more entangled in trying to help their Dad, the book unfortunately takes a rather farcical turn, proabaly to make it more exciting or hopeful for young readers. I also felt that the story ended abruptly, but if anything the fact that I was left wanting more could be viewed as a good thing.  
This novel is for teenagers, and I think Beverley Naidoo does a great job of trying to open young people's eyes to possible reasons behind immigration, as well as to the fact that England is a safe place, with freedom of speech that doesn't exist in other places in the world.
The Other Side of Truth has brought back a lot of memories for me, unfortunately mainly angry ones relating to the system we have here. The big problem that I have with unaccompanied children gaining asylum in England is that, as I know only too well, at eighteen they are more often than not sent back to their native country, regardless of the massive problems they are going to face.

Puffin Books, 2000


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