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Book Reviews

December, 2000

Secrets in the Fire
By Henning Mankell.

Transl. by Anne Connie Stuksrud.
PB, 166 p.
St.Leonards: Allen and Unwin,


There are lots of things in this world that stink. War is one of them - and one of the nastier things about modern warfare is that it can go on killing people even after the combat is over, in the form of land mines.

Based on a true story, this novel tells the story of plucky Maria Alface, a Mozambiquan twelve-year-old whose world is turned upside down when she steps on a land mine.

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Losing her sister and her legs at the same time, not long after losing their father and village to the war. Despite her pain, the lack of resources for treating her and her mother's unpleasant new partner, she triumphs and makes a new life for herself as a tailor. Along the way, she meets many decent human beings who make the best of their poor resources to help her.

It's not easy to write up a recent true story as a novel and it doesn't always work, but somehow this one does. Originally written in Swedish, its translation is simple but effective and the story is powerfully told. I found myself deeply moved.

Recommended for children of late primary or early secondary school age.

Sue Bursztynski

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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