Book Review: A Dangerous Crossing  

by Jane Mitchell

Published by Little Island, 2017

Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is – effectively – docu-fiction. Everthing in it is based on the sorts of horrifying experiences Syrian families are dealing with every day. It’s graphic beautiully imagined and works as fiction without feeling remotely “worthy”.

Ghalib and his family leave their home in Kobani in Syria after one shelling experience too many and head for the border. They are gentle, educated people. His pharmacist father has money and medicines – and he has organised their exodus, or thinks he has. Of course it doesn’t go smoothly and they are repeatedly the victims of exploiters who promise much and deliver at best hideously dangerous travel. All that, however is contrasted with the kindness they find in a refugee camp in peaceful Turkey – well described here as it would appear to a traumatised child arriving after the most hellish imaginable journey.

Nothing is overstated. Ghalib’s brother is almost drowned – in real life, of course, many childen lose their lives in the substandard boat ferrying them out of Syria. Eventually, though, the family – battered, penniless but together – reaches Greece. They are among the lucky ones although, as Mitchell points out in her afterword they now have to find a way of making a new life for themselves in Europe and that may prove the hardest thing yet.

A Dangerous Crossing is one of the most powerful humanitarian novels I’ve read in a while. Give it to teenagers to read and remind them that this is not history. It’s happening now – exactly as depicted.

Review by Susan Elkin