I received this book in exchange for an honest review, which anyone that knows me I am going to give you my honest feelings regardless. Enjoy!
(From the Publisher)
Each evening, nestled in Berlin’s Treptower Park, the immigrant circus comes to life.
When Yusuf fled Syria, he lost everything. Now the circus, with its middle-eastern flair, is the only home he knows. When the lights go on, the refugees dazzle their audience, but off-stage tensions flare.
Ellie is passionate about the circus and drawn to its broken people. Even so, if she wants to keep her job at the newspaper, she must head up a campaign against it.
One night, in the midst of a show, two young circus boys come to blows. With the circus at risk of closure, Ellie must convince her readers that we can have compassion for those we fear, or Yusuf will be forced to uproot again.
“…I look at you, and I see a chance my children never had, just because they happened to be born elsewhere.”
This book highlights an important issue that is being discussed throughout much of the world currently, which is about immigration. The right to come into another country as someone not born there. The story focuses on Yusuf, an acrobat, from a circus that has been made of refugees by the local government and Ellie Richter, a reporter. Their stories intertwine and tell a story of a world changing, sometimes not for the better. If I am completely honest with my own feelings, I would have rated this a 3 if I was basing this just on my own feelings. As I began to read this book, my internal reader kept saying that I wanted Christmas drivel. You know that sappy Hallmark type of movie book. They exist, trust me. I wanted those. This isn’t that. It isn’t supposed to be that either. I reminded myself that I needed to be objective and not base my rating on how I was feeling about the fact that this wasn’t the Christmas book I wanted to read, but instead focus on the content. When I removed my own feelings, I recognized very quickly that this was a 4 “star” (magical ornament is what I call it) read. The story delivers an important message, but at times the story is flawed on that delivery.
“If we look inside, every one of us has a seed of resistance embedded in ourselves that strikes out against those different from us.”
Nasser at the beginning of this book is clearly trying to establish who the members of the circus are. The forces that drove them to be in the circus instead of in their home countries. She masterfully showcases throughout the book the atrocities that refugees see in their life and how they are escaping true terrors that many of us will never know. I identified strongly with that element, as someone that has dealt with more than most people understand or care to realize (homelessness, drug addiction, and several forms of abuse). I found myself feeling attachment to Yusuf more than the “white” character of Ellie, who I felt like I should have been identifying with. The issue I had with Nasser’s set-up is that she spends too much time trying to establish this. For a good chunk of the book I was confused on how the plot would move forward and sometimes this is because the author is trying to leave some mystery, but that isn’t what this feels like. It almost felt like Nasser was trying to discover through the first 20 or so chapters what she wanted the book to be. The book focuses heavily on the circus and the various refugees within it. Sometimes feeling like it is meandering. I was discussing the book with a friend, as I read, and at one point I had to literally say that now it seemed like it was moving from a book just about immigration to suddenly thinking it was a romance novel. I was genuinely confused by the sudden change towards romance. It did not feel natural in the story, which a few times took me out of the story. While the connection between Yusuf and Ellie did not feel like an instant connection, it still felt a little forced, for me. I was hoping for camaraderie at best, but instead got blossoms (if you read this book, this word choice will make more sense). It wasn’t until the plot started moving near the halfway point, mainly surrounding the element of political corruption within the pages, that I started to become deeply invested in the book. The story started showcasing that these are things that impact our viewpoints every day. People manipulate the narrative through various means to make normal people feel a certain way on issues, like immigration. When this occurred, it reminded me of the realities of the world that we currently live within. It was this real world connection that got me through to the end of this book.
“You pluck out my otherness without thinking of the reasons behind my journey here. I didn’t come here for money. I came to be safe…”
It may seem like I didn’t enjoy this book because I am bemoaning it as a book I didn’t feel like I would have read and then I am complaining about the romance, but notice I am giving it 4-stars. There is a reason for this. The journey that Nasser takes us on is important. This is a story about political corruption, back alley deals, fake news, and many aspects of the modern world. The real world that we are currently living in and how that world is spinning our image on people that could be considered to be within an “other” class in society. The reality is that while this was fictionalized, many of these elements are at play. Nasser spins a tale that showcases why we should have compassion for refugees. These are people that have come from atrocities. They are not looking for hand-outs. They are not looking even for sympathy, but instead are simply looking for a place where they can feel safe in the world. Imagine coming from a place where you had to be scared all the time, Nasser paints that image and delivers it to us on a tear-stained canvas. I book hasn’t moved me due to the message in a long-time, Nasser’s book did move me. It reminded me that we, as a society, must do better for others. We do not have to fake happiness 24/7 or help every single person that we come across, but in general we should be concerned about doing more good than harm. We should not be so concerned about ourselves and our own aspirations that it pushes someone else to the brink of society. Our rising should never come at the expense of someone else’s falling. When I reached the final page of this book, I couldn’t write my review. I needed to set with this book. To let the context, the words, and the moments seep into my being. When I finally let it all come together I realized that this book, for me, reminded me of a simple thing: humanity. To always have humanity. It reminded me to be better, to do better, and to live better. I appreciate that this book by Nasser reminded me of this.
This book may have not entirely found its footing at the beginning, but this is an important read. The discussions that can be had from this book are vital in our current climate. The digital edition that I had book club discussion questions. These questions would open a line of dialogue that is needed. It could provide a group, a book club, or some other gathering that utilized books an easy and approachable resource to discuss the topic of immigration, refugees, politics, motivations, and so many other elements. Take the time to open up a dialogue about immigration with your friends. They may not be easy conversations. If you can’t find the words, simply slide them this book. Discuss afterwards. It will be worth it.
Here is some additional insights into the book, such as where you can get it, where you can discuss it, and a bit about the tour and author.
Information about the Book
Title: Hidden Colours
Author: Nillu Nasser
Release Date: 3rd December 2018
Page Count: 315
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42597918-hidden-colours-a-novel
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Colours-Nillu-Nasser-ebook/dp/B07K477TF7
Nillu Nasser is a writer of literary fiction novels. Her books include: All the Tomorrows (2017) and Hidden Colours (2018). An Ocean of Masks is due to be released in 2019. Nillu has a BA in English and German Literature, and an MA in European Politics. After graduating she worked in national and regional politics, but eventually reverted to her first love: writing. She lives in London with her husband and three children. For further information or to say hello, visit www.NilluNasser.com.
These are the other bloggers that are on the tour with me, please go check them out! They are all wonderful bloggers, who deserve your time.
Monday 10th December
Tuesday 11th December
Wednesday 12th December
Thursday 13th December
Friday 14th December
Saturday 15th December
Sunday 16th December