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Review: Sun On Your Back by Naira Khan 

A stirring and emotional debut by Leicester’s Naira Khan, ‘Sun on Your Back’ is an important novel, which explores domestic and sexual abuse – and the complicated, far-reaching effects that such traumas can have on victims many years down the line…

The book centres on the Kruger family, the majority of which live in Zimbabwe. However, our protagonist Diara lives in London, where she works for ‘Child First’ – a job she’s taken up due to early experiences of being abused by her father.

The story begins with a shocking revelation. Diara’s father has been killed, and her long suffering mum, Sophia has confessed to killing him.

Although her mother has confessed to accidentally killing her husband, she is tried for murder in a country with a conservative legal system and systematic racism and sexism.

In order to help her mum out of jail, Diara flies out to Zimbabwe for the trial, where she is forced to unpack the trauma she has kept locked away for years…

At court, we are given descriptions of the sexual abuse which took place at the hands of her father, Andre, and the level of detail was something which I found shocking and hard to read.

However, the decision not to shy away or censor the reality that some children face, is a brave and important one. The author should be applauded for her commitment to the truth and for raising awareness of a reality, which many are lucky enough to not even begin to imagine…

As the author states; ‘although the characters in the book are totally fictitious, the events are not,’ and I was struck by how realistic and well informed the book was throughout.

It is extremely well-written, and Ms Khan has succeeded in creating an extremely gripping story, which has depth, complexity and characters we really care about.

Within a couple of chapters, I was thoroughly invested in the character of Diara, and by the end I was rooting for her to overcome her trauma and get the happy ending she deserves, with Xander – a friend she has always adored from afar. 

The book’s sub-plot sees a romance develop between the pair. However due to her father’s abuse, Diara has become a tarnished and highly guarded individual – someone who is scared to get close and accept that she is worthy of love…

As well as learning about how early abuse has affected Diara, we also get an insight into why her mother endured such violent abuse from her husband over so many years, and why she ultimately accepted the blame for his death…

In this sense, the book serves as an important educational tool for understanding the skewed psychology of abuse victims, and as a consequence, how best to assist them.

To sum up, ‘Sun on Your Back’ is an important, insightful and eye-opening read which will stay with me for many years to come.

By Louise Steel

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