Winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award.
Where do you draw the line between fact and fiction? Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson, may be a work of fiction, but the issues that pack the backdrop of the story are tough, gritty facts.
On the surface the book tells the story of Blessing, a twelve year old girl, who, along with her mother and brother Ezikiel, are forced to leave their city life in Lagos, Nigeria to live with her grandparents in a small rural village in the Niger Delta. She has to adapt to a new life of poverty, without running water or electricity, surrounded by people in a busy compound.
It is a story of family life, and family love, witty, humorous, and tenderly told, but also filled with serious political, cultural and gender issues; the exploitation of natural resources by multinational oil companies; the violent teenage gangs whose raids threaten the security of the community; the Grandfather who has decided to embrace Islam and take a second wife; the new wife, sent to a fat farm to make herself more desirable for marriage; and the wise, loving grandmother, a traditional midwife who not only takes it upon herself to train Blessing as a midwife, but shows her the horrors of female genital mutilation, a cultural tradition she has to negotiate although she knows it is wrong.
Such serious issues could make for a depressing book, yet the story told with such love, warmth and wit, is in fact uplifting and full of hope. Through this work of fiction, we are shown the dangers of the real world, and hope that, like the fictional characters in the book, human nature can rise above them, adapting and improving to survive almost anything.
When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?
Sometimes it’s hard to choose between fact and fiction. Sometimes it’s hard to categorise one from another.