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For the chance of a better life…..

November 3, 2012

On Black Sisters’ Street.


Did it leave me haunted?  No, but sadness swept over me. 

The blurb reads: “Four very different women have made their way from Africa to the red light district of Brussels.  They have come to claim for themselves the riches they believe Europe promises but when Sisi, the most enigmatic of the women, is murdered, their already fragile world is shattered…

I must say I did hope that perhaps Sisi would not die after all, especially towards the end.  Read it and see what I mean.  But she died; at least I enjoyed how she took her revenge.  No I will not spoil that for you.  But that is where the sadness reached its crescendo for me.  These women really had nothing to dream for and hope for in the countries.  

Joyce whose parents and brother were senselessly murdered by the Janjaweed militia and on whom it suddenly dawned, once at the refugee camp, that nobody cared for what had happened to her.  “Where Alek had thought that her grief would singe ears and stop the world, the woman’s reaction convinced her that the camp was a collection of sad stories.

Ama, whose mother preferred the comfort she had married into more than the welfare of her daughter.  Efe with the father who could not survive the death of his wife, and the enigmatic Sisi, who despite a degree, was unable to get a job in Nigeria: lack of connection obliges!  And the man who preyed upon their vulnerability: Dele.

What did I enjoy about this book?  The author is not lecturing anyone but she doesn’t shy away from the facts either.  Pretty Woman, this isn’t (although I personally cannot, for the life of me, understand the appeal of Pretty Woman!).

It would have been kind not to have killed off Sisi, especially after telling us the ordeals of the women, both in their countries but also working on Black Sisters’ Street – Zwartezusterstraat – after telling us of their dreams to which they were clinging onto with the tip of their fingers.  At least that was my initial reaction, but then I thought of the millions of young women and men who die every year in Europe, whose bodies are carelessly discarded if nobody has had the funds to send them back.  I thought of the parents who go for years and years without seeing their children and I concluded that kindness has its place: the rest of the women knew they would be friends forever.  They were sisters.  But kindness should not hide the truth, and since this fictional story has rung true from the beginning, it had to carry to the end, for it is my view that novels, good novels (and any other form of art), as well as entertaining us, need to open our minds also.  Otherwise what’s the point?

I’m including this book in my 100 books to read before you die list.  What do you think?

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