In Peirene Press’ first commissioned work, breach, Annie Holmes and Olumide Popoola assert literary fiction’s ability to inspire empathy and help readers to understand events from another perspective. The inaugural work of the newly instated Peirene Now! series features 8 short stories that present a handful of narratives and matters connected to the current Calais refugee crisis while exploring the impact these events have on our sense of identity and belonging. Despite having been commissioned over a year ago, breach also manages to touch upon parallels to some of the questions raised by the recent EU referendum…
It’s that dialogue that isn’t happening in real life. A work of art can help to bridge the gap. – Meike Ziervogel
breach boldly confronts controversial, topical issues with a diverse assortment of narratives: some expected, some suprising, but all interwoven together by the current situation at Calais. From a young, British volunteer worker unexpectedly stumbling upon love within the camp – nicknamed the “Jungle” – to a scared refugee attempting to make a new home for himself in the UK, this important piece of literature forces us to confront some of the more challenging questions and realities created by the refugee crisis.
Incredibly absorbing from the outset, each narrative in breach is underpinned by a sense of urgency achieved by exploiting the short story format, present tense setting and fast-paced action. The moment you feel like you’re becoming familiar with a character and beginning to understand their mindset you’re disorientatingly wrenched out from the story and relocated to a different set of characters in a new situation – perhaps in an intentional attempt to mimic the experiences of the refugees. It’s also starkly evident that Holmes and Popoola have themselves become engrossed in the lives of the refugees and the stories they had to share during their visit to the camp in Calais.
The jungle is like a laboratory.
Each story possesses its own distinctive voice and is fuelled by an air of adventure. From the woman wanting to help young refugees while avoiding the prejudice of her neighbours, to Dlo and Jan’s desperate wrestle with the knowledge that the fastest (and perhaps only) way out of the camp could be the most life endangering, this vibrant collection of narratives is essential reading for anyone wanting to gain more insight into what’s happening on the ground in the “Jungle”. Perhaps most importantly, at no point do you feel that Popoola and Holmes are taking “sides” but are rather painting a fair and empathetic portrayal of the various characters who may have been overlooked in the media headlines.
While proving a timeless read that valiantly handles tough themes that will always be relevant, breach also acts as a sort of time capsule for this specific crisis, considerately and graciously documenting the voices of those stuck right in the centre of the action. An ambitious collection of short stories that firmly roots itself in current affairs, I can’t think of better way to get readers involved in the ongoing conversations surrounding the events at Calais…or a more suitable kick-off for the new Peirene Now! series. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to see what they have planned next!
Don’t forget to check out this introduction on the brand new Peirene Now! series and its flagship book here: http://www.foodforbookworms.com/2016/07/peirene-now-introduction-peirene-press/
Browse the rest of the #breach blog tour at the blogs below:
Disclaimer: This book was kindly sent to me to review by Peirene Press. All opinions expressed here are my own.