Tag Archives: memoir

Girl On A Plane

Miriam Moss

Andersen Press

9781783443314

September 2015

paperback

I was looking forward to reading this book because it came with high recommendations from people whose judgement I respect, but I have to say I feel there is a real and rather fundamental problem with it, and that has to do with the fact that it is, as the author herself tells us in a Postscript “a work of fiction… grounded in a real, life-defining hijack that I experienced when I was fifteen.” She then goes on to give some examples of the detail she invented to help bring this fiction alive. But each thing she mentions is a fairly small amendment to what actually happened on board. In the book the main character sits beside a younger boy whose travelling companion is a terrapin. The boy becomes a significant character in the story, whereas in real life “There was a boy with a terrapin, but I never spoke to him.”
All sense of suspense is rather undermined by the fact that we tend to know the eventual outcome will see the passengers surviving the hijacking, but even so the announcement (well before the end of the book) by the plane’s captain that a deal has been reached comes as an extraordinarily deflating anti-climax. It’s not that we don’t want Anna and everyone else to survive, but in a novel we do expect the tension to ratchet up a little more tautly before it is so suddenly released.
I’m afraid, for me, the book does not work as a novel. Perhaps because of the rawness of those experiences on which it is based, Moss has been too reluctant to reshape what happened into something that could so easily have become a much more edge-of-your-seat reading experience.
It would work very successfully as the basis for a TV drama-documentary about the hijack, in which we accept that we are watching affairs playing out more or less exactly as they happened in real life, but with the usual dramatic license present in such programmes. In that sense it works well as memoir, rather than as a novel, and one that gives the reader an extraordinarily vivid insight into what living through such an experience is actually like.

Malala – The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Changed The World

Mamalal Yousafzai, with Patricia McCormick

Indigo

9781780622149

August 2014

hardback

When I was young (pre-teen), reading biographies and memoirs of famous and inspiring individuals was commonplace. I had a particular penchant for reading about explorers and adventurers. When I visited the children’s section of the public library there was no shortage of such books. But individual biographical subjects no longer feature so prominently on children’s publishing lists.
The subject of this book has, of course, just been presented with the Nobel Peace Prize. Back in the summer Orion published her memoir on their teenage Indigo list. Although the book has all the appearance of an adult hardback biography (with inset coloured photos) it has been co-written with Patricia McCormick in a manner that makes it eminently accessible to children of older primary age, and would make an excellent present for anyone aged 10+.
It’s thought-provoking and engaging. Malala herself comes across as extraordinarily well-balanced and rounded.
At the end there is a very useful Timeline of Important Events, but also a set of Discussion Notes which give the book an unnecessarily overt educational agenda.