Review: “I am Malala”

Every now and then one comes across a book or a film which has a lasting impact upon one’s life.

This is one such book.

The story of Malala Yousafzai is very well documented, so I only really need to give a bare outline here for the remote possibility that a reader may not have heard of her. Growing up in Pakistan Malala and her teacher father became known throughout their country – and worldwide – for their attempts to ensure that all children have access to education, and in particular girls.

During most of her life, however, Malala has seen the obstruction to this fundamental right by various leaders and influencers in Pakistan – and Afghanistan as well. The Taliban actively discouraged girls from becoming educated. Their lack of success led to them openly attacking whole communities, forcing the closure of hundreds of schools and even destroying them. In this process many thousands were killed or became refugees in their own country.

In this book, Malala graphically depicts her personal struggle to be educated, her father’s unwavering support and determination, and the terrible cost they as a family endured, culminating in her being shot in the head while on her school bus by a Taliban adherent. She plainly explains all of this this against the current political and religious environment, and her determination to continue.

The latter part of the book gives an almost matter-of-fact account of her treatment, first in Pakistan, then in the UK, and her eventual recovery. Despite the attack she seems to have no malice or bitterness about what happened but rather an even greater desire – a firm resolve – to see all children, and especially girls, be fully educated, and this on a global scale. Subsequently she has spoken personally to many world leaders, addressed the United Nations, and more recently been awarded the ultimate accolade – the Nobel Peace Prize, at age 17, the youngest ever recipient.

She is still a teenager.

I think that it is incredible to realise that she was only born in 1997. She has already achieved so much in her short life. Her life, and this book, should stand as an inspiration to the current generation of young people around the globe – and it am sure it will continue to be an inspiration to generations to come.

Highly recommended.

Good reading.





Book review: The Secret River by Kate Grenville

The Secret River

I’ve recently read Kate Grenville‘s novel The Secret River on the recommendation of a friend. I can’t recall if I’ve ever read any other works by this prominent Australian author, but will certainly be looking at her other books in the future.

The story begins in London and follows the story of William Thornhill, a boatman on the Thames. He is involved in a misadventure which lands him in jail and sentenced to hang. Fortunately his wife’s family has connections, and his sentence is commuted to transportation to Australia as a convict ‘for the term of his natural life.’ His wife and young family are allowed to travel on the same convict ship, but as free settlers in the new penal colony at Sydney.

The story grabs the reader as Thornhill and his family struggle to survive. After some years he gains his freedom. Through hard work and many setbacks they eventually establish a farm they think of as their own. The indigenous population see things much differently and the inevitable conflict arises. This is a dark and often tragic part of recent Australian history, the ramifications of which we are still attempting to work through.

Grenville has drawn some memorable characters, especially in Thornhill, his wife Sal and her longing to some day return home to London, and some of the minor characters living near them. Their daily endeavours are well documented, set against the ever present strangeness of the unfamiliar landscape. Grenville also carefully plots the growing problem they had with the local Darug people who had lived here at one with the environment for millennia.

Interestingly, this story was inspired by the author’s family history. Her great-great-great grandfather was Solomon Wiseman after whom Wisemans Ferry, near modern Sydney, is named. While the novel is fiction, the author has drawn heavily upon historical records of the day, including those of her family. Thus we have in the novel a blurring of the line between historical fact and an author’s imagination as expressed in the fiction of the story.

This blurring resonates with what I am attempting to do with my own work in progress, a children’s novel set in Nepal which draws on actual historical events.

The Secret River is an important work by a highly acclaimed Australian author. It has rightly won many awards, including:

  • Winner, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2006
  • Winner, NSW Premier’s Literary award 2006
  • Shortlisted, Man Booker Prize, 2006.


Grenville, K 2005. The Secret River. Text, Melbourne.