Harmattan - Gavin Weston

Harmattan

Haoua is a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited, independent and intelligent, she has benefited from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother and enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends.

Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mother's worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife.

Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors.

But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon: as civil strife mounts in Niger, she begins to fear for Abdelkrim's safety; Her mother's illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognised, and her father's plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined.

Approaching her twelfth birthday, Haoua feels alone and vulnerable for the very first time in her life.


Purchase links

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Harmattan-Gavin-Weston/dp/1905802757

 

About the author

Gavin Weston was born in Belfast in 1962 and was raised on a farm. He is a multi-media artist, writer, lecturer, inventor and boating enthusiast, and, having raised two children and worked as a single foster carer for four years, now lives on the Ards Peninsula with two dogs and a parrot. He studied Fine Art at Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design and Goldsmiths’ College, London, and subsequently worked and taught in West Africa. In 1995 he completed an MA at the University of Ulster, where he also trained and worked as a lecturer. He was an Associate Lecturer at Belfast Metropolitan College for many years and a regular contributor to The Sunday Times from 1994 to 2002. He is a former prize-winner of the Claremorris Open and Iontas, a recipient of The Tyrone Guthrie Award and The John Hewitt Bursary and was shortlisted for The Becks Futures Award in 2002. 

 

 

 

He is currently working on a second novel, Tin Town, set in a parallel universe 1970s Northern Ireland, and on a collection of short stories. Weston was appointed Writer in Residence for NI prisons through the Prison Arts Foundation in April 2013. Currently based at HMP Magilligan, in the northwest of Ireland, he is founder and editor of the prison magazine TIME IN and also runs a drawing class there. He has recently been invited to submit work (on humanitarian issues) for the Rockefeller Institute’s Bellagio Center and is currently researching African prisons.



 

 

My Review


I must admit that I was intrigued by the title but because of the subject matter of child marriage in West Africa, I wasn't exactly looking forward to reading this book. It's true that it deals with a dark topic but the book is by no means written in a dark way. As we meet Haoua on the brink of her twelfth birthday, Gavin Weston manages to get inside this young girl's head. Although a fictional story, it's clear that this is based on the author's own experiences and perhaps it's that element which makes this book so haunting. There are tender moments, humourous moments but a sense of pathos throughout as Haoua is powerless to prevent what happens to her. I was somewhat surprised to learn that even if you sponser a child through an agency, this does not protect the child from being forced into marriage and if the child is withdrawn from education then he or she is no longer eligible for the sponsership scheme. It may not be an easy book to read but it is an extremely powerful book. The story of Haoua's journey through the desert was so well written and had me feeling guilty for taking water for granted in the West. It's a novel that will stay with you for a long time to come - one of the most powerful books I have read in ages and deserves more recognition. 


My rating


5/5


You can find out more about the topic on Gavin's website.

 

 

 

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19.09 | 08:04

I really did - lovely read

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