Are we defined by what we read? We all know that we have particular preferences but do these actually say much about who we are? Well, here is a short blog about some of the reading habits this summer from the team at Supporting Justice and a few thoughts and reflections we think you may find interesting (if not enlightening).

 

The beach book (or tent book, city break book, lost in a canoe without a paddle book) has become a summer staple so, with a serious angle in mind that we can all learn and inform our perspectives on life through a “good” book, here goes.

 

Anne Warren – Chief Executive Officer read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

 

A lot of my work involves reading – on screen, online and, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, too often still in hard copy. A lot of it is reports, consultative documents, policies and legislation alongside the addictive daily diet of email. So, holidays are the only time I seem able to make space for fiction.

This summer I was particularly gripped by Mohsin Hamid’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. It is a tale, told entirely in the first person, by Changez, a Princeton-educated Pakistani. He seeks out an American stranger in a Lahore café and holds him (and me) enthralled as he relates how his life as a high-flying financial analyst in New York unravelled in the wake of 9/11.

He returned to Pakistan disillusioned following the collapse of his American dream and has become more alienated as he reflects from a distance on the cultural and religious differences between his adopted country and his homeland. He bemoans the fear and lack of understanding of Islam and Islamic societies widespread in the US along with aggressive American policies and the victimisation of Pakistan. And he vacillates between a show of understanding and tacit support for Islamic attacks on the West on the one hand and condemnation of Pakistani politicians for encouraging the fundamentalists through anti-American policies and rhetoric on the other.

Amidst the geopolitical and personal storylines, Hamid challenges the reader to form her or his own view of who the mysterious American stranger may be, whether their meeting was an accident and which, if either, is under threat from the other. My personal takeaways focused on the fact that it is not always easy, or possible, to determine who is victim and who is terrorist, and that time and energy expended on trying to apportion blame might be better spent trying to understand the issues, attitudes and events that lead to conflict.

 

Rhiannon Evans – Director of services read Trafficked – My Story by Sophie Hayes

 

So my summer read has been ‘Trafficked, My Story’ by Sophie Hayes. I will admit it’s not much of a beach read, but it certainly had me gripped. Despite my job, I couldn’t quite believe this was a British girl talking about a male friend that she’d loved and trusted for years who had tricked her into going on holiday, only to be sold into the sex trade. The book talks about her ordeal, her life being trafficked and her brave escape to freedom. What did I learn from the book? Well, I learnt that it could be you or me. It gives great insight into how something which might seem so far away from your world can really happen. It also reminded me how important family, friends and professionals are for picking up the pieces. An ordeal of this magnitude has lifelong consequences for all those involved and aftercare is crucial. In a world where the media move from one story to another in a matter of seconds, we must not forget those who are still living with the effects.

 

David Kenyon – Head of Business Development read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

 

As historians seem to read history, scientists, science, it’s not surprising I tend to plump for crime (and occasionally, spy) books on a summer break. I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh, is a gripping and clever thriller that has numerous twists and turns and, significantly, challenges the reader on several fronts.

 

A young boy run over and killed by a car; the main character (whom we assume to be his mother) unable to cope and escaping to the countryside and isolation; a tight knit community suspicious of outsiders; the beginnings of redemption…. And a massive twist, followed by another and another…

The book deals with grief, domestic abuse, alienation, judgement, the impact of the criminal justice process on an individual and, above all, offers a clear moral that not all is as we think or would wish.

In other words, all the things we know victims and their families may have to face each and every day and how vital it is for them to find help, support and, as importantly, people who will not judge at face value. Novels can inform and shape opinions and make us all step back, reflect and ask ourselves how we respond to the frequent challenges and questions we face and, critically, how we respond to others facing similar.

 

Sam Smith -Social Media Officer read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 

The Handmaid’s Tale, a classic dystopian novel by Canadian Author Margaret Atwood, delves into the Republic of Gilead and tracks the story of Offred, a name given to her to remove any personal identification and put ownership of her into the hands of her Commander, and a woman who’s now sole purpose in life is to produce a baby for the Commander and his wife. The simplistic and lyrical prose guide you through the brutality of her new life and gives you a glimpse of her life before with her husband and daughter, of which give her hope and comfort in times of struggle. The book details a world that many women in the real world may be experiencing now – a life of isolation and powerlessness, trapped into a duration of rape and coerciveness. Modern-day slavery is not a thing of fiction, but an issue that continues to persist throughout the world. The harrowing tale of Offred delivers a thought provoking insight into how life for some is dictated by their biology. Don’t fancy the book, then why not watch the recent TV series. I haven’t watched it myself, however friends say it’s gripping!