My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Book Review: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

As the descendant of immigrants, I am always drawn to stories of immigration.  This novel, The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani, chronicles the largest migration in human history when India (immediately after British rule ended in 1947) was partitioned into Muslim Pakistan, and Hindu India.  

This led to massive upheaval as people were forced to pick up their lives and move to a part of the country they were not familiar with.  Long simmering anger between the two groups led to violence and made the migration a dangerous journey.

All of this is witnessed by the main character of the book, twelve-year-old Nisha.  This was a very moving book about the refugee experience.  The setting, characters, and story all contribute to a strong feeling of empathy towards people forced to leave their homes due to political policies they have no influence over.

What I Liked:
The time is 1947, and India is about to gain it's independence from Great Britain.  But this new freedom comes with some difficult compromises.  Although Gandhi, the famous man of peace, wants a united India, age-old tensions between Hindus and Muslims force India to split into two separate countries:  India and Pakistan.  I thought the book did a good job of explaining the political realities of the time, and how these manifested on the local level.  As the family progresses on their journey, the level of danger escalates to a point where if anyone recognizes that they are Hindu, they will be killed.

Amid this very grave subject matter, the author uses cooking to give a sense of place to delicious effect.  Nisha, a quiet child, connects with others through the common language of spices, recipes, and the routine of meal-preparation.  Wherever they live, Nisha will always have this remembrance of home.  The vivid descriptions of aromatic spices such as coriander, mustard seeds, cardamon, and turmeric made me feel I was in the kitchen with the characters.  

Main Character:
Nisha is a very shy twelve-year-old girl.  Their mother died giving birth to her and her twin brother, Amil.  This has her wondering if her father blames her for the death of her mother, and makes her very quiet around him.  With no one to really talk with, she pours her heart out in a diary (which she only writes in at night), and in cooking for others. 

Nisha sees so much injustice and is confused by it. Suddenly some of her friends are not allowed to play with her.  The household's Muslim cook, and honorary member of the family, cannot come with her to her new home.

Having Nisha as a witness to history brings into focus the very personal nature of such a conflict.  I think many middle-grade readers will empathize with Nisha.  

The story follows the family as they walk from their home in the newly founded country of Pakistan, to Jodhpur India, a distance of over two-hundred miles!  There is danger and hardships as the characters must find food and water along the way.  They also must be careful around Muslims as there was a great deal of violence between different religious groups.

The family goes from living a comfortable life where their father has a good job as a doctor, servants, and plenty to eat, to near starvation in a matter of weeks.  The fragility of life is on full display.


Release Date:  March 6th, 2018

Publisher:  Dial Books for Young Readers

Author:  Veera Hiranandani

Page Length:  272 Pages

Genre:  Middle-grade Historical Novel

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Hardcover Book

Recommendation:  An engaging book that captures the hope and despair of what it means to be a refugee.  Good for both middle-grade and older readers.
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2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


80% 80% 100 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge
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