Lead Review (Cut Adrift)
- Book: Cut Adrift
- Location: Malta
- Author: Jane Jesmond
This is the second outing for Jen Shaw, and it might be helpful to read On the Edge, simply to gain some sense of Jen, her motivations and her place in her own family dynamic. The thrust of this novel, focusing on the plight of refugees, feels like a very timely subject.
Jen descends on Alájar in Spain at the behest of a young man. Her curiosity is piqued and it suits her mood and her need to climb (without ropes). It thus also affords her the opportunity to climb mountains, which is her passion. Soon she finds herself on the sidelines of difficult events and when her brother tracks down her mother in Malta, that clearly becomes her next port of call. The siblings have issues around the family home, that only their mother, Morwenna, can address.
Once she looks up the 3 islands that comprise the country, she understands just how close they are to Africa and indeed to Sicily (a little geography lesson helps set the scene). With her thoughts working overtime to make connections, she surmises that Morwenna is there to help her friend and writer, Nahla Shebani, who, she knows has fallen foul of the ruling regime in Libya…. she clearly knows her mother and her motivations. Given there is a prologue, the reader is already aware that Nahla is trying to flee to Malta from Libya with her family.
Almost as soon as she arrives, Jen is confronted by the enormity of operations set up to deal with incoming refugees. Morwenna seems hardly fazed to see her daughter and both are soon involved in care of the community. It is a gritty scene, with dirt and appalling conditions, the people housed in containers with insufficient sanitation. An uprising results in the death of Nahla, seemingly torched to death in the burning clinic. Both mother and daughter understand that their time here now is limited and Morwenna is determined to take Nahla’s two children away from the camp to safety….
The characters are perhaps a little hard to get to know. I wonder as the series develops, more about their psychological drives will be revealed. The author is very good at creating a tense narrative, and the choice of subject lends itself incredibly well to taut storytelling. She captures the horrors of the situation in which Morwenna and Jen find themselves, not to mention the people incarcerated in inhumane conditions, hoping against hope for a better life.