Review Blog

Apr 23 2009

Dream land by Lily Hyde

cover image

Walker Books,London, 2008.
(Age: 12+)Cover blurb:'One girl's struggle to find her true home'. It is the story of the return of a Crimean Tatar family from exile in Uzbekistan to the Crimea, told through the eyes of a young girl.
This beautifully written story is based on real events and is sponsored by Amnesty International.It deals with the Crimean Tatars who survived exile by Stalin after the war and who returned to their homeland under perestroika. They find their old homes possessed by Russians who were moved in and many of their old villages destroyed, in much the same way as surviving Jews did when they returned to Poland after the war. This little known story is vividly captured here. Safi, about 12 or 13, arrives with her extended family to build a house by themselves in face of hostility from the locals who see them as unwanted intruders.
Lily Hyde conveys well the beauty of the Crimea, the fierce love of homeland which survives exile and opposition, the strength of a united loving family, the power of numbers against government might and the pros and cons of risking all for a dream.The eye-catching colourful cover has a Tatar embroidery of a house key growing out of a heart from which sprout tendrils producing hearts, flowers and coffee pots. The keys and coffee pots were kept by the exiles through years of travail, as powerful symbols of what they loved and had lost, and served to sustain their dream in the face of overwhelming odds. The wonderful power of oral story telling of ethnic and family history is captured here by Safi listening to grandfather's stories.
Safi's voice is that of a normal, very likeable girl trying to make sense of what is happening to her family. She unwittingly becomes a heroine in a dramatic ending, and her realistic portrayal by Lily Hyde makes it possible for students to relate to her.Unfortunately, girls who are Safi's age may be too young to be attracted to, or fully appreciate this book, as readable as it is.
It is sad that this book is unlikely to get the wide readership it deserves.Better, curious students will enjoy and learn from it, but it does not have enough across the board appeal to become a class text. Modern history students would gain a real feel for the human impact of dictatorship. One for the library.
Kevyna Gardner

Archived Blog Entries