‘A cat has seven souls in Arabic. In English cats have nine lives. You probably have both nine lives and seven souls, because otherwise I don’t know how you’ve made it this far.’
Sami’s childhood is much like any other – an innocent blend of family and school, of friends and relations and pets (including stray cats and dogs, and the turtle he keeps on the roof).
But growing up in one of the largest cities in Syria, with his country at war with itself, means that nothing is really normal. And Sami’s hopes for a better future are ripped away when he is conscripted into the military and forced to train as a map maker.
Sami may be shielded from the worst horrors of the war, but it will still be impossible to avoid his own nightmare…
Inspired by extraordinary true events, The Stray Cats of Homs is the story of a young man who will do anything to keep the dream of home alive, even in the face of unimaginable devastation. Tender, wild and unbearably raw, it is a novel which will stay with you for ever.
*I was sent a kindle edition of the novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
The Stray Cats of Homs is an emotional and heartrending story of survival and hope in the direst of circumstances. We follow Sami through a mostly idyllic childhood in the Syrian city of Homs, with his siblings and loving parents. It isn’t until he becomes a teenager that he realises the tension that has begun to crop up within the country and he is forced into military service. This period changes his entire life and his views on his government and what he can do to help inspire change and revolution. Eva Nour has penned a truly beautiful novel. which follows the Syrian war and the far reaching consequences for the Syrian people.
One of the novels biggest strengths is Nours writing, which has some really poetic passages and quotes to sections where it’s more informative and factual. I think some readers may find some of the chapters more heavy with historical points and references but I thought it fit in with the novel well. These parts will educate readers who may be unfamiliar with the conflict and give them a basis, from which to research and educate themselves further.
As well as the writing itself, I thought Sami was such an incredible person and so strong for all he goes through and yet he still manages to retain hope. While this is obviously very difficult at times given all he goes through during the course of the novel and in the conflict, he finds the will to survive and also expose the injustices around him through photography. He joins a network of rebels and media organisations which focus on activism and portraying the realities to the rest of Syria and the international community. This shows how photography can be such a powerful tool in times of strife and prove to be so impactful.
I would also like to note that the novel is based on a true events, and is written under a pseudonym Eva Nour, for and with the real Sami present. The pseudonym is to protect the writer and Sami. I think the fact that I knew it was based on true events added so much more gravity and urgency to the novel and it made me so happy to know that he has found some happiness and is now safe and sound.
Overall, The Stray Cats of Homs is a memorable read and a testament to the human spirit. I would encourage everyone to pick up this novel and read Samis experiences for themselves, it is so vital and emotive and will stay with you.
Until next time,