It’s an understandable sentiment. Fifteen year old Doria’s life is far from perfect. She lives with her mother in a tower block on the outskirts of Paris.
Her father has returned to his Moroccan birthplace to find a new wife who will provide him with the son he so badly wants. And so mother and daughter are left to subsist on the meagre wages that a woman who doesn’t speak the language can earn as an office cleaner.
Understandably Doria is angry. With her father’s abandonment. With the casual racism that she and her mother regularly encounter. And with all the people who say they understand when they clearly don’t.
But this isn’t an angry book. It’s a slice of the life of a fifteen year old girl who doen’t stop for too long to think about hows and whys. She just gets on with things.
There are dark theme: poverty, opression, racism. But they are balanced by humour, emotional ties, and a wonderful sense of community.
Doria holds it all together. She has a black sense of humour, a strong moral compass, and wonderful powers of observation. I loved her and I believed in her completely.
I loved watching her interact with a broad cast. Mrs Burland, a counsellor who clearly cares but doesn’t quite understand. Hamoudi, her closest friend, Their lives are moving in different directions, but the bond between them remains. Shopkeepers, neighbours, aunties …
Yes, community is so important.
And there was plenty going on. This is one of those books you can open to any page and find a great one liner, a perfect observation or a memorable incident. Sometimes you’d find all three!
A little more plot, a little more structure wouldn’t have gone amiss though. The story dropped into Doria’s and Yasmina’s lives, and then it dropped out again with a little progress but no real conclusion.
But the rich content, beautifully balanced with a great authorial touch, did balance that.
And it was lovely to meet Doria and Yasmina. Their relationship was the best thing of all. Doria’s pride in her mother and how she was working to support them both. Yasmina’s confidence in her daughter, tempered with concern and uncertainly about what the future might hold.
That’s what is staying with me, and making me smile when I think about the book.