At the end of the story comes the beginning.

“At the end of the story comes the beginning. We wake up from the dream, from the nightmare, from life – and if we knew where we were going to fall next, this is when we might lay down some straw.”

Here, in 2016, we are living at a time when, on a daily basis somewhere in the world is being targeted by a terrorist attack. It may be thousands of miles away, or just up the road, but you can almost guarantee that somewhere, right now, a community is being overwhelmed by grief, anger, fear, and pain, that far too many of us have come to understand.

It is this pain, and it’s aftermath, that Julie Mayhew, author of The Big Lie, one of my favourite reads of 2015, has chosen to explore in her new book, with heartbreakingly beautiful results.


Told from the point-of-view of Darya, a young woman older than her years, Mother Tongue is the story of how an attack on a local school turns her world, and the worlds of everyone she knows, upside-down, leaving her to try and pick herself back up, and decide where she now fits into this new world she doesn’t recognise.

The story is quite a harrowing read, because Julie tells it with such honesty. She writes in an almost poetical way, but that poetry in no way hides the dirty, and at times, menacing sides to the situations Darya finds herself in, and shows how even the most innocent of souls can be tested during dark times.

At the heart of it, however, is the story of a struggle we can all relate to.

In the same way she used Nazism as a backdrop for exploring sexuality in The Big Lie, here Mayhew uses the aftermath of a terrorist attack to explore identity. Both literally and figuratively, Darya struggles to find her voice and her place, in a world that seems too big for her, and, through using Darya’s endeavour to learn English, as a metaphor, we see how she changes from a girl trying to be a mother to a sister, into a woman trying to find herself.

It’s a beautiful story, about a world many of us will hopefully never come to know, but a venture all us have to go through, told in almost lyrical tones, that will leave you with a vice gripping your stomach, caring for a girl in a world very similar, but in many ways, very different, to your own.


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Featured image based on a design by Banksy, via.


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