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A House Without Walls

A House Without Walls

Elizabeth Laird
Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 9781509880720

Safiya is 13 and, together with her father and older brother, has been forced to flee from her comfortable home in Damascus as a result of the civil war that has been raging in Syria. She has left behind so much that she holds dear including her best friend and her education, and she has swapped four walls for life in a tent alongside the home of her uncle and aunt in neighbouring Jordan.

This was certainly not the adolescence that she was hoping for. Beyond the daily battle of trying to keep clean, warm and fed, and separated from the life she knows, Safiya increasingly feels the loss of her twin sister Saba who left the family in mysterious circumstances along with their mother when the girls were just infants. Might there be some way for the family to be reunited?

I read this book in one greedy sitting, soaking up the characters I met along the way and really feeling the protagonist of Safiya come alive on the pages before me. I felt her sense of frustration at the circumstances in which she finds herself, coupled with the expectations which require her to take care of her father and brother and tend to the family's domestic needs while her brother continues to attend school.

Safiya rises to the challenges she faces and discovers an inner strength that propels her through a series of adventures which kept me gripped to the final page. I was interested to read that the author had spent time living in the Middle East and her deep cultural understanding really comes across in the text.

I passed my copy to the Head of English at my school who loved it so much that we immediately ordered a full class set! Highly recommended.

294 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian


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