Title: The Frightened Ones
Author: Dima Wannous
Publisher: Knopf Publishing
Publication Date: 11 August 2020
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley
In her therapist's
waiting room in Damascus, Suleima meets a strange and reticent man named
Naseem, and they soon begin a tense affair. But when Naseem, a writer,
flees Syria for Germany, he sends Suleima the unfinished manuscript of
his novel. To Suleima's surprise, she and the novel's protagonist are
uncannily similar. As she reads, Suleima's past overwhelms her and she
has no idea what to trust--Naseem's pages, her own memory, or nothing at
Narrated in alternating chapters by Suleima and the mysterious woman portrayed in Naseem's novel, The Frightened Ones
is a boundary-blurring, radical examination of the effects of
oppression on one's sense of identity, the effects of collective trauma,
and a moving window into life inside Assad's Syria.
The Frightened Ones was an interesting book on many levels. It focuses on trauma and memory and two characters trying to cope with events from their past following the Syrian revolution. I thought Wannous offered a very progressive and nuanced portrayal of mental health issues, and the blending of Suleima's tale with Naseem's novel works well, blurring the lines between reality and fiction even for the reader. I did struggle to get into this at first, but once I settled down into the story I started to enjoy it more. This won't be for everyone, though, either because of the subject matter or the narrative style. Nonetheless, I think it's a book that will repay re-reading. I imagine you would take away something different from it each time.
I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.