The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis

Purplefourstars

Review by Alice

Semira and Hanna, her mother, have been in Britain for four years. They are under the “care” of Robel, a vile, pot-bellied people trafficker, who makes sure her mother doesn’t learn English or get paid, leaving her dependant on his scant goodwill.

The Closest Thing To Flying

They live in a house packed with people in similar circumstances. One day, Semira finds herself buying an old hat on a market stall, strangely drawn to the bird that decorates the hat. When she takes it home, she discovers there is an old diary hidden inside the hat box, written by a young girl called Hen over 100 years ago. Semira finds herself caught up in Hen’s story, finding in it an escape from her own life that is full of hunger and loss. She finds that she is challenged by the girl in the diary to speak up in her own life and fight for her place in the world.

I liked the feeling of escape and joy that Henrietta feels when she learns to ride a bike, and how that becomes mirrored in Semira’s story as she is also introduced to cycling through her new friend. This meeting then leads to more revelations in Semira’s life, about who she is and where she comes from. I also really liked the resolutions we get to some, but not all, parts of the story – it was interesting that not everything is resolved. It is a good bedtime book, perfect for children around 9-10 and older who are confident readers.

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