Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted The War by Sumia Sukkar

The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War by Sumia Sukkar
Genre: Fiction (Faction), Contemporary, War Fiction, Refugees
Format: Hardback
PublisherEyewear Publishing (H/B Nov, 2013) (P/B Oct, 2014)
Source NewBooks Magazine


Adam is a 14-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome who attempts to understand the Syrian conflict and its effect on his life by painting his feelings. Yasmine, his beautiful older sister, devotes herself to him, but has to cope with her own traumas when she is taken by soldiers. Their three brothers also struggle – on whether or not to take sides and the consequences of their eventual choices.

The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War is the powerful and deeply moving debut novel from 21-year- old Sumia Sukkar. It chronicles the intimate sufferings of a family in the midst of civil war with uncommon compassion, wit and imaginative force. Told mainly from a challenged young man’s perspective, it achieves the timeless dignity of a true report from an unpredictable and frightening place. It will take its place among the list of necessary books to read about how we preserve love and beauty during brutal times.

The story is sure to become a beloved classic, as it follows in the footsteps of other novels touching on the lives of young people during war. “Writing my timely novel was a way for me to express my grief towards the tragedies of what’s happening in my country,” says Sumia. “Readers will find it interesting to experience the traumatising events of war through the eyes of an innocent young autistic boy who has lived his whole life completely dependant on his family and then having to be separated from them. It contains a blend of political events, emotional drive and Arabian tradition."

My Thoughts:
I originally read The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War by Sumia Sukkar back in 2012, and it had quite an impact on me.  I don't know why I didn't write up my thoughts beforehand. Maybe I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to do it the justice it deserves. I will however now attempt to do just that and tell you what an amazing read The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War is.  With the Syrian conflict still at the forefront of news broadcasts, further compounded by the unfolding tragedy of the exodus of refugees from a country destroyed by war The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War is an excellent narrative.  It is a compelling but harrowing book telling an all too painfully realistic story seen through the eyes of a child.

Adam the books narrator is 14 years old, has Asperger Syndrome, and is totally dependent on his family.  He lives with his loving sister, Yasmine and his brothers Khalid, Tariq and Isa in Aleppo. Although he doesn't fully comprehend what is happening to his country he does have a sense of the bubbling tensions and fear, caused by the advancing Syrian conflict from the actions and altering behaviours, of those close to him.

Yasmine has always been totally devoted to Adam but after a particularly traumatic experience her character alters to such a degree that she no longer has the patience for him.  Adam cannot understand why this is or why sometimes she is grey or green and no longer ruby.

The only way he can cope, and make some sense of his changing environment is to paint what he sees and how he feels. He relates and feels through colour and paints the war as he watches the utter chaos and destruction of his home.

“I have the urge to paint and I can already see the painting in my head. Two young boys lying in the water with their bodies spread open, free, but their faces disfigured, burnt. It would be a black-and-white painting with the faces a spectrum of colours. It’s going to be horrible and beautiful all at the same time.”

The Boy From Aleppo is beautifully written with prose that flows naturally and effortlessly. It's hard to believe that this is Sumia Sukkar's debut novel but it is undeniably written with compassionate imaginative insight.  These fictional characters are 'real'; Adam and his family are the refugees we currently see on our TV and tablet screens. It is painfully raw and powerfully emotive reading about the violence, trauma and devastation the war has on them.

Sumia Sukkar does not pull any punches and has spectacularly captured the plight of the Syrian refugees. This is not a feel good read. As depressing and gut wrenching as it is to see the horror and devastation of war through the eyes of a child, it is an invaluable fictional reportage of current events. Even if we are ourselves powerless to help, the least we can do is try to understand and not belittle the plight of a war ravaged people and to remember that they are just like us. This book does that in a non political narrative of an innocent child.

I wholeheartedly recommend, even implore, that you read this book. A great debut offering from a talented writer, The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War is simply outstanding.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted the War was provided by NewBooks Magazine in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

About Sumia Sukkar:
Sumia Sukkar is of Syrian and Algerian origin, but grew up in London. She has a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing from Kingston University. This is her debut novel. Follow Sumia on Twitter: @SumiaSukkar.

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