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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2009
Wendy Wallace has crafted a beutifully written book about Leila Aziz, a remarkable Sudanese woman brought up in the tough environment of Sudan in the 1970s and 1980s as a social outcast.

The book never descends into the mawkish "miserable childhood" genre. Certainly some of Leila's experiences are harrowing, but they are seen through the eyes of a girl for whom normality is tough and who simply yearns to be treated with respect and kindness. Wallace never imposes her own views on her subject and captures a genuine rarely heard voice of an ordinary woman of Sudan, propelled into extraordinary measures in her struggle to lead a normal life.

It is ultimately an optimistic book, which has something to say about quiet determination, chipping away at an apparently insurmountable problem until it starts to crumble. It reminded me of a song called Millwork which has lyrics that say: "It goes like it goes, like the river flows, and time just rolls right on. And maybe what's good gets a little bit better and maybe what's bad gets gone."

Bravo to Leila for her courage and patience and to Wendy Wallace for her talent to bring Leila's story to life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2009
I was third in the queue to read my copy of this book, because members of my family could not put it down, and I wanted to have it for myself! This book is so good...

Leila's story has a positive (and necessary) outcome, but all the same it is deeply saddening to read of her experiences, and Ms Wallace's depiction and consummate writing bring it all to life. I especially appreciated how cleverly the unfolding story was sequenced and all the minute textural detail woven in.
We all three found ourselves transported into Leila's world. The author manages to translate and embody a deeply moving voice, and the geographical context is satisfyingly authentic. Europeans reading this story, can acquire a genuine sense of what it is like belonging to, and being brought up in a place, culture and society radically different from their own and because they are fully able to identify with the experience of the characters, find themselves haunted by an aching bond of human empathy.

When I finished reading this book I continued under its spell for days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2009
Wendy Wallace takes us from the abandoned Sudanese girl Leila's early childhood right through to her 40s, by which time she is running a centre for abandoned babies and children in Khartoum. Wallace writes in the first person and evokes Leila's suffering during her difficult, loveless childhood with tremendous compassion but never pity. Leila has the same needs, dreams and desires as any six year old girl anywhere in the world, and the author seems to have effortlessly got right inside her head and to recognise her feelings of isolation.

Right from the start we see that Leila has a strong inner core that will sustain her through the unimaginable horrors ahead, including abuse from her carers, or nannies as they are called, and genital mutilation when she is l2. Wallace could never have written about Sudan so authentically without having spent a lot of time there, and when she describes the smell of sesame seeds roasting or falafel cooking, we can almost taste it, as I could the desert dust in the back of my throat as I turned the pages.

It is harrowing to grasp through Leila's experiences the realities of growing up in a society that allows middle aged men to marry children, while women who have sex outside of such 'marriages', decided in mosques by men who sign womens' lives away without their consent, are regarded as no better than prostitutes and cast out by society. It is mostly the products of these 'unholy' liaisons who are the abandoned babies Wallace writes of, but she does it without judgement or malice, allowing Leila's experience to speak for itself.

This is a giant of a book that reads more like a novel than a biography. Think of Slumdog Millionaire, except that the prize at the end is that Leila survives to help other abandoned children. If that sounds worthy, it shouldn't. Wallace writes with deep affection for Sudan, and with heartfelt respect for a woman who has, relatively speaking, flourished against the odds and brought some love into the lives of these unwanted, stigmatized children who are cast out by wider Sudanese society through no fault of their own. I couldn't put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2014
This is a very moving story of a young girl called Leila, abandoned by her twice-divorced mother in Sudan. Women in Sudan are very much the chattels of their husbands and women used and divorced by a husband are left destitute, homeless, income-less, hungry and rejected.

Leila survived in an awful orphanage where most children succumbed to disease and neglect. The description of the place brought to my mind the pictures we saw of Romanian orphanages immediately after the fall of communism. She and her older half sister are among a group of orphans moved to a new 'orphan village' in Khartoum. The village is organised on a house system with house-mothers tending to the children of each house. There is an element of western involvement in the orphanage organisation but that is never clearly defined in the narrative. They go to school and make friends with children from 'normal' homes. It also enjoys the patronage of President Nimieri the military dictator then in power in Sudan. We briefly see an interesting perspective of him and the Islamic regime which succeeded him.

As Leila discovers family members we see live in rural Sudan at close quarters. As she grows to adulthood times of joy are followed by great hardship and sadness. I have read other books with a similar theme about women from this region of Africa. This one stands out from the pack however. It avoids sentimentalism, fatalism, self-pity and recrimination. Neither is it a book about a plucky little girl succeeding despite all that the wicked world unjustly throws at her. Wendy Wallace writes it as it is without embellishment and we can see and are free form our own view of the life of Leila Aziz and her family. It is a remarkable life and a book worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2010
I read this book for my book club - and oh what a book it is. Beautifully written through Leila's eyes as she grows up in a way that says how it is without being overly sentimental. Leila's story and heartache is a privilege to read and the way she accepts her limitations is extremely humbling. It's a book that makes the reader think about what poverty does to families, and makes you realise that change is something that cannot be forced on anyone. Communities have to adapt in their own time. However, despite all the familial hardships, one is totally engrossed in Leila's story and that of her sister, mother and extended family. You are rooting for her all the way. By the time I finished I was crying with pride for what she had achieved from so little. Beautifully written by Wendy Wallace- am now going to read everything else she has written. Five stars isn't quite sufficient for this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2010
I read this book with my book group, and every one of us loved it. It's humanity, fluid narrative and empathy lifted it entirely from the welter of misery memoirs (which I avoid: I know there is madness and evil out there, but I don't want to share an intimacy with it). Whilst not without its moments of gut-wrenches, it was very matter of fact and didn't linger or offer western perspectives. This book was however entirely uplifting and inspiring, as art should be, and left me with the feeling that I knew this amazing woman and thanked the universe she was alive and breathing her love on all those that need loving! (You see how good it makes you feel? I'm gushing like a looney!). Well done to Wendy Wallace for bringing this story alive. Her way of describing a tiny child's basic needs in the first chapter was amazing. Thank you.
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on 7 November 2012
The story of Leila, the courageous and spirited survivor of the most devastating prejudice, is very moving and powerful. The amazing detail that the author conjures in the telling is remarkable. I was so engrossed while reading that I suddenly realized, quite unexpectedly, that the book is a page tuner.

The cultural aspects of "Daughter of Dust" are informative and beautifully woven into the main narrative. The harrowing details are not at all gratuitous, and they so easily could be. The reader is sure to relate to the universal themes of belonging, home, unbelievable hardship, and family, even while marvelling at the stark differences in the Sudanese culture. Through Wendy Wallace's brilliant prose I gleaned a greater understanding of a woman, a culture, and a country. What a rich a book this is.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2009
We had this for our book group a couple of months ago and we really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about the current life in Sudan. I have since recommended it to other book groups who have also loved it and had good discussions about it.
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on 11 July 2012
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how it was written from Leila's point of view, and it told me a lot about Sudan and growing up as an orphan. It wasn't all negative, a lot of it was very postive, and I really like Leila's postive view on life and how she copes with aversity.
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on 10 July 2015
It's a very easy, engaging read. I feel in awe of Leila and the way she has lived her difficult life.
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