Ms Jebreal is a journalist and I found the first half of the book read very much like an extended newspaper article. This section covered the lives of Hind Husseini and several of Miral's relatives. However, once I reached the story of Miral herself, the whole feel of the book changed and became much more immediate; evoking more reaction from myself as a reader.
Hind Husseini, whose school Miral attended for much of her childhood, was an amazing woman. She chanced upon 50 desperate children, orphaned and lost after their village had been ransacked in 1948. They had been dumped near the Church of the Holy Sepulcre in Jerusalem and had nowhere to go. Hind gathered them up and took them home, and it was from this event that she started a children's home. As time passed, she managed to procure some financial aid and the children's home grew to a school for nearly 2,000 girls.
Miral and her sister lost their mother when they were very young and their father felt unable to raise them alone. He brought them to Hind and they lived at the school, going home only at weekends. At first they were very homesick, but the school provided a stable base for them and Hind became like a surrogate mother to Miral.
As Miral grew and gradually became more aware of events taking place around her, she felt compelled to become more active. She helped in a refugee camp, but wanted to do more for the Palestinian struggle against the loss of their homeland. Hind did not permit her pupils to march in demonstrations so Miral had to do so illicitly. It was here that she met another activist and fell in love. However, she also had an Israeli friend, which gave the whole a much more balanced feel.
This book is marketed as fiction, in spite of the fact that the author is known to have stated that it is based on her life. From this, I would deduce that the events are factual but some of the characters and details may be fictional. This seems fair enough to me, as long as I know.
As yet I have not seen the film but I believe it is a good representation of the book and I fully intend to see it soon.
I would also recommend Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa as an excellent novel in the same genre.