BOOK BITES | Fatima Bhutto, Anna Fifield

A timeous novel that explores why young people become jihadists and a fascinating glimpse into Kim Jong Un's childhood and succession

18 August 2019 - 00:00 By Sunday Times Books
A vivid story of vulnerability and violence.
A vivid story of vulnerability and violence.
Image: Viking

Published in the Sunday Times: 18/08/2019

The Runaways ****
Fatima Bhutto, Viking, R290

From the daughter of Pakistani political martyr Murtaza Bhutto comes a timeous novel that seeks to explore why young people become jihadists.

Fatima Bhutto's titular characters find themselves in the Iraqi desert fighting for the Muslim brotherhood but the novel's beauty, and its power, lies in the stories of how they got there.

Sunny's Indian father moved to England to give his family a better life, but Sunny grapples with racism, sexuality and belonging.

Anita Rose lives in the slums of Karachi, where her mother is a masseuse for wealthy women and her revolutionary neighbour stokes her anger with radical poetry.

On the other side of Karachi lives sweet, privileged Monty, whose mother discards servants on a whim and whose father thinks him a coward. When their worlds collide, it makes for a vivid story of vulnerability and violence. Anna Stroud @annawriter_

'The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un'.
'The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un'.
Image: John Murray

The Great Successor: The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un ***
Anna Fifield, John Murray, R325

Mystery, untruths and propaganda follow both Kim Jong Un and North Korea, the country he controls with an iron fist.

Journalist and author Anna Fifield does a good job of unravelling the truths. She begins by exploring how Kim Jong Un was raised to be a ruler by his father Kim Jong Il, who readied him for political power as a child.

It's a fascinating version of a family and country the world knows little about. Fifield credits a number of sources who were not only close to the Kim dynasty, but also ordinary North Koreans who have experienced the hardships of living under the Kim clan.

That, however, does not mean everybody is unhappy. Fifield highlights that although shut out from the world, many North Koreans remain loyal to their supreme leader. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt