Swimming on the lawn by Yasmin Hamid

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Fremantle Press, 2017. ISBN 9781925164855
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Sudan, Family, Food, Civil war. An ordinary life in the Sudan in the 1960's is full of family and love. In relating life in Khartoum, Farida talks of her Mum and Dad, siblings, Sami, Selma and Amir as they live in their neat home, collecting eggs from the chickens at the back, buying milk from the man on the donkey who calls, celebrating Eid with the neighbours and going to the hairdresser's. All is familiar to the reader, but hints of coming conflict appear in the background. Some unknown men come by and kill their goat, a kiosk sells children's toys and Sami wants a tank or a gun, which his mother is adamant he shall not have, while men have been seen with guns slung on their backs.
Farida goes for a holiday with her uncle to his house, quite different from their own, where water must be drawn from a well, and food is cooked on an open fire within the mid brick walls. And here, Farida sees the Nubian pyramids, a legacy from the past.
The languid atmosphere of the Sudan permeates the story, with Hamid recalling her homeland, effortlessly reporting the small details of family life, religion and culture. Food and its preparation, clothes, school, births and deaths, sleeping on the verandah when it is too hot inside form a heart warming background to this story of family life.
But one day, when the girls return from the library with their books, they find that tanks have surrounded their house and they see their father taken away. Their lives are shattered. The peaceful way of life is no more, and they must pack their belongings into one suitcase and leave. Their peaceful existence has gone. Readers can only imagine what the next steps will be, the shock of the event belying all that has gone before. The suddenness of their father being taken away will stop all readers in their tracks and help them realise that this happens to such a family, a family not dissimilar to themselves.
A little information about Yasmin is available on the Fremantle Press website.
Fran Knight