In the days before the outbreak of war in Syria, a young Kurdish woman, Zarrin, has brought shame on her family. She has paid a high price – as is the way for such dishonour – and fearing for her life, she flees, stumbling her way blindly to the border with Turkey, where she finds herself amongst a growing tide of migrants in a refugee camp. There, a son, Elend, is born – the product of her punishment.
She makes her way to Britain, scraping a living as best she can, but she is betrayed over and over as she moves from job to job, living hand to mouth and supporting her young son with what little she has. When her friend is killed and the police arrive, she once more has to flee, moving away from the city to find work as a vegetable picker, exploited, unappreciated but, importantly, largely unnoticed.
Then, at last, her fortunes change. She joins a group of itinerant workers who travel the waterways of England. With them, she finds happiness and companionship at last. Elend grows strong, love beckons and in a scene that might have come from Hardy’s Wessex, she is crowned Queen in a festival of hops on a Kentish heritage farm.
But her happiness is crushed once again when she is outed inadvertently on social media by one of her friends and, just as she has begun to find sanctuary, Zarrin’s safety is at risk once again.
I think the blurb gives you a lot of what to expect from Zarrin. However, it cannot touch on the deeper elements of this book. I was really moved and humbled by Zarrin’s story. I have to admit that I was a little vexed to have to put down a thriller to read this book, but it was worth it. I was immediately sucked in through the emotion of this book and eager to find out how Zarrin’s story would conclude.
The best part about Zarrin is that it doesn’t romanticise the plight of refugees. We can often read simplified stories of refugees’ journeys or just the fairytale elements are highlighted. I found this book to probably be a more realistic account of what life is like for many. Even if someone doesn’t find this to be the best piece of fiction they ever read, they should find it to be an eye-opener as to what life can be life for many, many others.
If you would like to read Zarrin’s story, you can pick up a copy of the book here.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.