The Other Side of Truth is an historical fiction novel set on a true story. Although all the characters in the book are fictional, three political figures who were real people, are mentioned within it. It is set in around 1996, just after an event that ties in with one of these real people, has come to an end. The story linking the fictional characters together is supposedly set when talk of this real life event has died down.
The novel is told in third person and is mainly focused on the thoughts and actions of the main character; a young Nigerian girl named Sade.
The Other Side of Truth begins in Lagos, Nigeria with a terrible tragedy. It begins on an ordinary day, Sade and her younger brother Femi are packing their bags for school, and their father, an outspoken Nigerian journalist is getting ready for work. Suddenly:
“A shot. Two shots at the gate in the early morning and a car screeches away down an avenue of palm trees”
After the terrible loss of their mother, Sade and Femi find that terror is all around them. Their father decides that they must flee their country to England, and go and stay with their Uncle Dele. At once. Just the two of them.
Plans for their journey are promptly arranged and they soon find themselves on the plane to England, under the names of Yemi and Ade, travelling as the children of a Mrs Bankole. But as soon as they arrive in England, Mrs Bankole deserts them and they are left wondering the streets of London on their own.
A huge shock comes, when they are unable to locate their Uncle Deli. Together, they tramp round the dusty, dirty London streets, trying to find place to shelter for the night. Their large holdall is stolen and they soon find themselves being taken away by the police, assumed as thieves.
When asked their names, they take their mothers surname, so that the police don’t find out that they are the children of Mr Folarin Solaja, a man whom many Nigerian’s hate, just because he writes the truth.
The police soon realise that they are not thieves and the children are handed over to the social workers who fix them up for the night at a Mrs Grahams. The next morning, the social workers begin to inquire about the reason why they were all alone in the centre of London, late last night. Where were their parents? At first the children say nothing, not knowing what to say and what to keep to themselves. After a long struggle, the social workers finally manage to get their names and a little information out of them.
It takes a long time, but finally the children are given temporary admission to the country, and the social workers take the children to the home of Mr and Mrs King whom they are to stay with until they find their Uncle or any of their relations.
The children start to settle down with the Kings, and they both start school. However problems for Sade are far from over. She is bullied, by two of the girls from school, into stealing from the family of her friend Mariam who is also African.
All Sade and her brother want, is for things to be how they were on that morning before the death of their mother. But now, they never know if they will ever see their father, or any of their relations again.
The Other Side of Truth is a tragic novel that I found, on the whole is very emotional. The characters are very convincing and memorable. They are described as seen through the eyes of Sade and are very realistic.
The author has named the people who play minor parts in the novel, by the action they did, or what they said in the story. For example, all we hear about one character is, ” A man in a yellow coat guarded the door. With one hand, he held a mobile telephone up to his ear. With the other he controlled the queue.” This man is not given a proper name, instead the author writes him as ‘Mr Mobile’. The use of this naming technique is used throughout the book. It is only with the main characters that real names are used.
Beverley Naidoo has written the novel in a very vivid style, and it is very easy to picture what is going on at each point in the book in you head. The opening is very strong and will immediately get the reader hooked, as it did for myself. Usually it is the opening of the book that decides whether you are going to read on or not, and in this book a major event happens in the first chapter, which makes you want to find out what happens next.
The author uses many very descriptive passages and emotional phrases to really bring you into the book and make you feel that you are there experiencing what Sade and Femi had to.
Throughout the novel, Beverley Naidoo has used flashbacks to something that has happened in Sade’s life in the past that relates to the story at that time. It might be something that her mother had said, or something that her father had told her. An example of this from the novel follows:
When Sade returns from school on her first day, Aunt Gracie asks her what it was like and Sade replies, ” It was fine, thank you.” This was a lie and there is then a flash back to something Sade’s mother had once said:
“Tell a lie, play with fire. But don’t complain of the smoke.”
The Other Side of Truth is a novel that will appeal to anyone who enjoys historic books with a bit of an adventure. I think it would mainly appeal to teenagers, but adults who enjoy an easy read may also like it.
I really enjoyed reading the book, as there was always something happening and it was fairly easy to understand with not many character names to remember, so I did not get confused. I found it very emotional and very realistic. The novel is very well written and you can really get into and feel that you are there, watching the incidents in the book happen right in front of your eyes.