Saturday 27 February 2016

Book review : Fractured - Clár Ní Chonghaile

Fractured, the adjective, could be used to describe the main protagonist, Peter Maguire, or the country that he finds himself in, namely war-torn Somalia. Fractured, the novel, gives us an in-depth and poignant portrayal of both.

Foreign correspondant Peter is on a research mission in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, when he is kidnapped by islamic fundamentalists. In captivity, he is battered physically and mentally, but in the depths of despair, he finds a glimmer of hope and humanity in his young captor Abdi. A fragile but life-affirming bond grows up between the two, despite the chasm that separates them in all areas of their lives, and Abdi puts his own life on the line by helping Peter escape. Peter's salvation is bittersweet - the cost of his survival is horrendous bloodshed, with several innocents losing their life to save him. I couldn't help but wonder if their deaths were justified, to save just one man, who had no real reason to be in Mogadishu in the first place. The fact that Peter is most definitely an anti-hero, with more faults than qualities, doesn't help !

There is also a sense of history repeating itself. Peter's mother Nina was also a journalist and knows the score, so she heads to Somalia for the interminable wait for news of her son's fate. She is forced to revisit another emotional trauma many years before, in which a fellow journalist, Shaun Ridge, was shot dead before her eyes in Liberia. The pair had only met the day before but that was enough time to for them to fall head over heels in love and conceive a child, Peter. Peter's own life is equally complicated, with a girlfriend in Paris, where he lives, and a past love and secret child in Liberia.

Peter, Abdi and Nina are all given their own narrative voice in alternate chapters. They have all dealt with emotional trauma, made numerous bad decisions in their lives but ultimately want to find a way forward and redeem themselves. The mood shifts from bleak despair to frail optimism, but there is always the sinister sense of things waiting to go wrong hovering in the background.

It's a tense, edgy read that gives a clear sense of life in countries ravaged by war. It's a book that will make you think about life as a journalist, why people are drawn to fundamentalism, the randomness of life and being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ultimately, the true meaning of life and inner peace. Not at all what I was expecting to contemplate after the bleakness of the opening pages !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 Feb. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785079824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785079825

Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.

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