The Other Side of Truth



The Other Side of Truth

by Beverley Naidoo

Age: 10+

Interests: current events, politics, refugees, Africa, immigration, violence, history, racism

Penguin: 2000

224 pages

Sequel to this book: A Web of Lies

Also by this author: Journey to Jo’burg, No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa, Chain of Fire, Out of Bounds

Twelve-year-old Sade’s father is a journalist writing about corruption in the Nigerian government. One day her mother is killed in a driveby shooting right in front of their house, the gunmen obviously targeting her father. Fearing for their safety, her father sends Sade and her younger brother Femi out of the country. Unfortunately the woman he pays to take them to their uncle in England abandons the children as soon as they arrive, and the two must fend for themselves in a terrifyingly unfamiliar land. The suspicion and fear they experienced in Nigeria still hang over them in Britain, and they do not want to tell anyone their real names or history for fear it will endanger their father. Picked up by the police for vagrancy, they are sent first to an unfriendly foster home, and then to a much more sympathetic foster couple. They begin attending school, where Sade struggles against prejudice and bullying. All the while Sade and Femi continue to worry about their father. Where is he? Is he safe? How will he ever be able to find them again?

When their father does arrive in England looking for them, he is immediately arrested. The Nigerian government claims he is wanted for the murder of his wife. Things are looking extremely grim – if he is deported back to Nigeria he will most certainly be put to death. Watching all this unfold in the news Sade makes the bold decision to reveal their identity and tell their side of the story to “Mr. Seven O’Clock” himself, the man they see reading the news on tv. This gambit is successful, and results in her father being freed to reunite with his children for Christmas, although at the end of the book they are still awaiting official notification of asylum. (The sequel A Web of Lies carries on their tale from this point.)

Set in 1995 but sadly still timely, this novel effectively portrays the terrifying plight of political refugees, particularly children who become separated from their parents. It also deals with the suspicion and prejudice immigrants often encounter in their new homeland. Political corruption and state violence are complex issues presented here on a very human, one-to-one level. An excellent novel for readers interested in current world events and curious about the plight of refugees.

Beverley Naidoo grew up in apartheid South Africa and has written several novels and picture books about that period.


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