Sometime, last week I received a very lovely and exciting email from the author of this book, Victoria, asking me if I’d like to read and review her book. After hearing a little about the book, I knew I just had to!
What I really appreciated is that Victoria clearly took the time to read my blog and so she knew that I’m always on the lookout for books with Muslim characters. A few days later I received a copy in the mail! It’s such a beautiful cover and she attached a personalised little note which is always nice.
Also a little disclaimer before we get into the review – I would like to say that my review is an honest reflection of what I thought about this book + it’s not impacted by the fact I got requested to review it. I’m all about transparency here so, without further ado, here’s the review!
Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out.
When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love.
Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’
I can’t express how important and deeply relevant this book is, now especially. When stories of refugees fleeing their homes and families being separated are so normalised, it’s like some people have become indifferent to this suffering. However, books like this one, and characters like Reema and her family are key in reaffirming that refugees aren’t just nameless faces, they’re individuals with their own cultures, history and unique stories.
The perspective of the book is split between Reema and Caylin and both of them are such well developed characters. You get a real feel for their unique voices. They both have interesting backstories too – Caylin is struggling with her grief about her grandfathers death and her mothers excessive drinking as a result. Caylin resorts to stealing and bullying in order to feed both herself and her mother as well as keep everyone at school from knowing of her desperate situation at home.
When Caylin and Reema first meet, they are an unlikely pair but they find some common ground in the form of a wounded Fox and her cubs. Taking care of the foxes creates a bond between the two girls and as time goes by they share details about their lives, help each other with their respective problems and form a very meaningful friendship which changes both their lives for the better.
This is such a well written and moving story, I definitely felt teary eyed at certain points. It has the perfect balance between sad and hopeful, and I love the creative way in which the foxes perspective is also placed in the story now and then. Much like Caylin and Reema, I love animals and I’d like to think I’d do the same as them!
I’d also like to note that Islam as well as Syrian culture is well represented and treated with a lot of respect which I really appreciate. There was an incident of Islamaphobia in the novel, which is sadly realistic and it’s a valuable lesson to a reader who may be unaware or uneducated about such sentiments. I also think it was quite insightful that Reema was apprehensive at first about losing her culture and memories of home but grew to realise she can retain her Syrian heritage whilst also partaking in the culture she finds herself in now. She realises she doesn’t have to compromise her faith either, which is unfortunately such a common trope when it comes to Muslims in media, that faith is disregarded or watered down in favour of something else. So this was a refreshing representation.
Overall, I would really recommend this book to readers of any age, but I think it will be especially impactful on younger readers and early teens. For some readers the language and structure may be a bit simplistic but it didn’t bother me too much as I was impressed by the novel as a whole. I only wish I had stories like this one to read when I was younger.
P.S I would also like to mention that 20% of the author royalties go to the Scottish Refugee Council so if you like the sound of this story and want to buy a copy, just know you’d also be supporting such an incredible cause.
★★★★★ – 5 Star Rating
Does The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle sound like a book you’d be interested in? Do you look for stories which reflect the world and can teach some lessons? Would love to chat in the comments!
Until next time,