Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books, to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This column covers reviews by Alicja (The End of Where We Begin) and Emma (Mothlight).
The End of Where We Begin by Rosalind Russell
Published by Impress Books, November 2020
In The End of Where We Begin, Rosalind Russell gives voices to refugees from South Sudan. The book’s narrative follows three people from different circumstances and backgrounds. Yet, they all end up in the same place: Bidibidi refugee camp in Uganda.
Veronica is a teenage mother of a young girl, taking care of her younger sister. In the camp, abandoned by her mother and not knowing where her boyfriend is, she discovers she is pregnant again. She is not even eighteen. Daniel is a young man, son of a colonel, finding himself in the camp with his mum and younger siblings. Arriving in the refugee camp, Lilian feels like she has lost everything. Her husband has died and throughout the journey to Uganda, she has been separated from her young son, who may be dead.
I think that Lilian’s story resonated with me the most, but I found all three narratives extremely powerful and moving. The End of Where We Begin is an important book that stays in your memory long after you have put it back on your bookshelf. Veronica, Daniel and Lilian are painfully human and it is hard to imagine what hardships they have all been through. But against all odds they carry on and Veronica returns to school. Daniel ends up at university, Lilian finds a job helping others. The End of Where We Begin is a story that shows the endurance and extreme strength, of people whose lives have been brutally interrupted by war.
Then once again, by COVID-19. While the pandemic impacted us all in different ways, often bringing our lives to stop, refugees have been even more affected. The funding suddenly moved towards different agendas and the conditions of refugee camps became even worse. This is especially true in Uganda, where it has never been easy. Reading the powerful stories of these three refugees, I only wanted them to have a happy ending and to have their circumstances improved. While they persisted through unbearable hardships, the pandemic made their situation harder. I can only hope they all find a way to continue living and a way to move forward.
I did not know as much about the history of South Sudan when I started reading this story, but Russell’s The End of Where We Begin gives a narrative almost entirely, to the voices of three refugees. This is what made me read on the topic, outside of her book.
Veronica, Daniel, Lilian and a thousand others, deserve their voices to be heard. Those who have been lost in the country torn by war, deserve to be remembered.
Mothlight by Adam Scovell
Published by Influx Press, February 2019
After absolutely loving Boy Parts from Influx Press, I decided to pick up another one of their books and see what this independent publisher is all about. The premise of Mothlight in particular, really intrigued me.
Phyllis Ewans, a lepidoptera researcher (specialising in moths and butterflies), has passed away in her old age. Thomas, a man who had known Phyllis since a young age, soon became her carer, companion and fellow lepidoptera-obsessive. After her passing, Thomas’ connection to Phyllis begins to strengthen. To the point where he does not only question what he really knows about this woman, but also starts to think he can still feel her presence.
There has been so much praise for Scovell and his writing. He manages to capture the obsession that develops within grief, in an eerie and almost Gothic way.
This book really had me questioning my own instincts. I genuinely, at one point, wondered if this was a non-fiction tale from Scovell. Simply because Thomas’ memories of Phyllis were so visceral and nostalgic.
While I sometimes struggled to connect to either Thomas or Phyllis and questioned whether the plot was going to pick up, I cannot deny that Scovell’s writing is really beautiful.
Much of the book is set in the Lake District, so when paired with captivating descriptions of natural surroundings, it really felt like I was reading a modern take on Romanticism. There is a real loyalty to landscape in this story.
Scovell is certainly someone to watch and I cannot wait to see what else comes from Influx Press!