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The Optician of Lampedusa Hardcover – 29 Sep 2016
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Poetically written, absorbing, harrowing . . . a moving and unusual achievement (Fiona Wilson The Times)
An important book. . . I cried all the way through (Tracy Chevalier)
An ambitious and important book that goes far beyond the voyeurism of 24-hour news to identify something timeless and troubling... a moral tale, following events through the eyes of the fastidiously ordinary optician never named in the text and thereby transformed into an everyman . . . Emma Jane Kirby challenges us to do more than cry. (Peter Stanford Observer)
A novelistic retelling of a man's tragic encounter with the European migrant crisis - a true story that brings a fresh perspective to events that are often hard to visualise. (Melissa Lawford Financial Times)
An eloquent, extraordinary story for our times (Tablet, Book of the Year)
A moving insight (Financial Times, Book of the Year)
A book that can be devoured as if it were a novel, but in which everything is true. (Le Parisien)
A heartfelt story . . . at once horrifying and comforting (Le Soir)
Deeply moving. . . this is a tale of transformation, of a man just like you and me. (Journal du Dimanche)
With skill and composure that marks it as a work of literature rather than a journalistic report, Emma-Jane Kirby explores closely the innermost upheaval of one human being faced with the tragedy of another: the cause of such suffering is born of guilt, but also of a sense of humanity born of uncontrollable empathy. (La Croix)
About the Author
Emma-Jane Kirby is a broadcast journalist who has reported extensively on international affairs, from Brussels to Afghanistan. She won the Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents for her report 'The Optician of Lampedusa', on which this book is based.
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I found the format, that of a good quality hard back book, with appropriate art work, showing a series of breaking waves; and who would want to be trying to survive them - to be unusually retro and serious. Good to be holding a proper volume, and to be able to take it all in within the space of a few hours. I liked the new angle of presenting as 'faction', such an important, moving story of a modern day Samaritan, eight of them in fact, who did not 'cross to the other side'. I could relate to their road to Damascus moments, shared as one, without any false notes, they worked as a team and later all suffered the same Post Traumatic Stress, their own lives, values, thoughts, preoccupations, changed forever.
Humans in distress are not sanitised, these unfortunates were already bereaved, battered, slippery with diesel oil, hurt, sick and as ashamed of their nakedness as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I can't seem to stop the flow of biblical references in this review - for good reason - this is a parable and one we cannot ignore. These people could be us they feel as we do, love for family and friends, aspirations for a better future, they are not a lesser kind of human. Their exquisite sensitivity is demonstrated by the gift they gave to their rescuers - a drawing of hand reaching to hand into the waves...
Cleverly written indeed.
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