Author(s): Edna O'Brien
Girl, Edna O'Brien's courageous new novel is an unforgettable depiction of one woman's abduction by Boko Haram.
Captured, abducted and married into Boko Haram, the narrator of this story witnesses and suffers the horrors of a community of men governed by a brutal code of violence. Barely more than a girl herself, she must soon learn how to survive as a woman with a child of her own. Just as the world around her seems entirely consumed by madness, bound for hell, she is offered an escape of sorts - but only into another landscape of trials and terrors amidst the unforgiving wilds of northeastern Nigeria, through the forest and beyond; a place where her traumas are met with the blinkered judgement of a society in denial.
How do we love in a world that has lost its moorings? How can we comprehend the barbarism of our enemies, and learn forgiveness for atrocities committed in the name of ideology?
The threat of this virus is altering my mind as regards to reading - the world before covid19 seems slightly irrelevant. Imagine dealing with this threat in a country where the health system is already stretched by civil war.
This book is set in Nigeria. The Girl of the title has her small village childhood interrupted by a Boko Haram raid. She is forced to marry and live in a community governed by male violence. Her marriage is not too severe and she has a child. She forms a bond with a fellow captive and together the young women and baby escape and start the arduous journey back to their homes. This, of course, entails new horrors.
Edna O'Brien is an Irish author who has written more than twenty novels, won many awards and is no spring chicken. So it must have been a bold step taking on the research for this story. She travelled to Nigeria to meet girls who had been taken by Boko Haram. Girls whose stories would normally never be told - and there, of course, is the value an author can have.
Perhaps as we wait for things 'get back to normal' we should think of people in places like Nigeria and Yemen who want anything but to go back to the way things were.
Perhaps we should all be contemplating a way forward rather than back.
Longlisted for The Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
'By an extraordinary act of the imagination we are transported into the inner world of a girl who, after brutal abuse as a slave to Nigerian jihadis, escapes and with dogged persistence begins to rebuild her shattered life. Girl is a courageous book about a courageous spirit.' - J.M. Coetzee
Edna O'Brien has written more than twenty works of fiction. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award, the American National Arts Gold Medal, the Frank O'Connor Prize and the PEN/Nabokov Award For Achievement in International Literature. Born and raised in the west of Ireland, she has lived in London for many years.