Review Blog

Oct 13 2009

The fury in the fire by Henning Mankell

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Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741758313.
(Ages 14+) Sofia is now twenty, living with a man, Armando, who works in the city and sees her and their three children on the weekend. It is Mozambique, and Sofia is the young girl we met in Secrets in the fire, 10 years ago, when her legs were torn off in a land mine explosion. The first book told of her battle to overcome her mammoth disability and other's views of her as she struggled to build a new life for herself in a country where hospitals and doctors are few. Its sequel, Playing with fire, told of Sofia's older sister, sharing sex with her group of friends in the village, and succumbing to AIDS. Both books are authentic in their view of Mozambique and its problems, and give a lasting impression of the struggle of people overcoming immense odds.
Readers cannot help but admire Sofia's determination and single mindedness.
In this, the third book, about Sofia and her family, Sofia begins to suspect her man as he varies the time he comes back to their village, and has new clothes, leaving her and their children with less than they need. She travels to the city to watch out for him, and finds he is seeing another woman. Sofia finds it hard to share her problems with her mother, who looks on helplessly, knowing that something is wrong.
Confronting Armando is more difficult than she can imagine, and he denies her fears, but when his boss comes asking about him, Sofia must act. The denouement is confronting to both Sofia and the reader. With her particular brand of fortitude, Sofia survives this ordeal and turns her sight forward. It is often a shock to realise all over again, that this young woman has prosthetic legs and must walk with crutches, and so the 6 mile walk to the health clinic must be like climbing Everest. Her search for the truth about Armando is all the more poignant knowing the immense difficulties she must overcome each day.Mankell has told the story of Sofia, the young girl he met when he first visited Mozambique with tenacity and a truthfulness that makes other books, telling of people in difficult circumstances, pall by comparison.
Fran Knight

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