Hadlow Down Book Club Reviews

Firefly Henry Porter 2018.

Firefly is a political spy thriller, set in the world of refugees fleeing from Syria and ISIS. Naji is a brilliant thirteen-year-old who escapes from a refugee camp in Greece and makes his way across Europe with information vital to ISIS. He is pursued by a ruthless ISIS gang but also by a British agent, working for MI5 who want the same information.
The flight is beset by dangers which Naji uses his wits to evade. He encounters cruelty and suffering but also kindness and generosity, often from those who have little to give.
Henry Porter is a journalist. His novel is well-researched and shows his first-hand knowledge of the subject. He brings conditions in the refugee camp vividly to life as well as the dangers and suffering involved by those fleeing and the bureaucratic difficulties they face.
The novel is certainly a good page-turner but it is also a thought provoking book, very relevant at the moment –‘ a glimpse with a terrifying and random world in which there are few happy endings.’ (Guardian)


Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

Our next novel was a complete contrast – a family saga covering three generations of a Greek family, who flee from a tiny village in Asia Minor to prohibition-era Detroit, escaping from the Turks’ brutal invasion of Smyrna.
The novel tells the story of its narrator, Calliope Stephanides who has an intersex condition known as 5-alpha reduction deficiency so that she is born a girl but is realized to be biologically male at puberty and becomes ‘Cal’. This syndrome results from a recessive genetic mutation occurring only among inbred populations and the novel uncovers the family secret that caused it.
As an omniscient narrator Cal tells the story of past generations and then her own life, spanning nearly eight decades. Partly based on Eugenides’ own family history we learn of the experiences of Graeco-Americans in turbulent times in the United States – prohibition, race riots, Malcolm X and the Islamic movement.
When he becomes a boy, Cal moves away to San Francisco, and after mishaps along the road and sleeping rough, finds work in a peep show that displays people with ambiguous gender. Eventually he returns home for his Father’s funeral where his Grandmother confesses to the incestuous relationship that led to the gene that was passed to Cal and Cal determines to live a good life, eventually moving to Berlin where he  starts a relationship with a woman
This is a dense novel which took the author 9 years to complete.  However, he writes with a light touch and the novel is both funny and poignant with a touch of magic realism. Although some of the group felt there was too much detail, the majority of us enjoyed it and felt we had learnt a lot.

Next book ‘West’ by Carys Davies