Every day, thousands of people, all over the world, set out on arduous, often perilous journeys.
For some, the aim is simply to reach a place of greater safety. For others, the motivation is economic. Their plan is to work overseas — as millions of expatriate Britons have done over the centuries — send money home, and then return themselves. Others know, or fear, they can never go back; that the place they once called home is now a danger to them.
The recent deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a refrigeration truck in Essex is a tragedy that prompts uncomfortable questions about modern Britain. Who brought these people here? How? And why? How much had they already paid before this journey cost them their lives?
Mohsin Hamid’s most recent novel, the strange and moving Exit West, pictured left, and Joanne Ramos’s speculative thriller The Farm, right
The award-winning writer Mohsin Hamid is from Lahore, Pakistan, but has spent half his life overseas, in London, New York and California. His most recent novel, the strange and moving Exit West, was inspired by the migrant crisis, but also by his returning to Lahore to discover that so many seemed intent on leaving. The short, powerful novel begins in an unnamed city, apparently on the brink of civil war. There, Saeed and Nadia meet, fall in love and agree — he, more reluctantly — that they should leave.
Hamid’s surreal conceit highlights how wrenching it is to leave one’s homeland, physically, economically and emotionally, and to settle elsewhere. In The Beekeeper Of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri imagines the experiences of traumatised Syrian couple Nura and Afra. After life-shattering experiences, they are trying to rediscover themselves, and one another, in a run-down coastal English boarding-house.
Joanne Ramos’s speculative thriller The Farm is set in the near future between a surrogacy centre in the U.S., where poor women are paid to carry rich women’s babies, and a community of expatriate Filipina workers in New York.
All these books remind us of the human stories behind the headlines and to be thankful for what we have got.