My wife is Polish. Her first job in Secondary School was teaching 7 Polish kids basic English. She cried within 45 seconds of me passing her the piece. It is a stunning account of a fresh immigrant finding her place in a rather toxic environment. Insensitivity, racism, teenage cruelty, and sweet glimpses of human kindness and courage which allow steps toward triumph. If this is a work of imagination, it is truly breathtaking. David E. Wilson
Kasienka and her mother arrive in England with little more than a bag of clothes and a plan to track down the father that abandoned them both. Forced into a new school with unfamiliar customs and a language that she doesn't fully understand it isn't easy for Kasienka to make friends. Suffering from bullying at school, living in a dismal flat and forced to walk the streets in search of her father all add up to a pretty miserable life for her. But can she find a place where she belongs?
I have to admit that I've not read many verse novels, in fact this is only the second one I've ever picked up as I've always been a bit wary of them in the past. In spite of that I found myself really enjoying Kasienka's story and I'm definitely thinking I should look into reading more of this kind of story. It isn't difficult to feel for Kasienka, she goes through so many hardships and my heart broke for her. I've never been an immigrant or struggled to go to a school where everyone speaks a different language to the one I was born speaking but I did suffer with bullying so could relate to what she suffered at the hands of school bully Clair.
The hardest thing to watch was the way her mother struggled to cope with the disappearance of her father though. Her mother has to work long hours just to afford a horrible bedsit and enough food for them to survive but then she spends all her spare time walking the streets knocking on doors showing her father's picture. It was heartbreaking to picture Kasienka trailing around after her mother when she should have been playing with friends like any normal 12-year-old girl. The story isn't all dark though, it also shows the strong friendships Kasienka makes both at home and at school and we get to see her confidence grow as she joins the school swimming team.
The Weight of Water is beautifully written and touches on so many important themes that I think it would make it a great book for using in schools. Among other things it will make you think about prejudice, racism, immigration, bullying, poverty and the importance of family and friends. This is a touching read and I would definitely recommend it if you are interested in any of these issues. I'm looking forward to seeing what Sarah Crossan comes up with next.
The Weight of Water is Sarah Crossan's debut novel and it was definitely a story that didn't disappoint! In this story, Crossan tells the story of a Polish girl, Kasienka, her mother (Ola/Mama) and their move to England in order to search for Tata, her father. This book deals with so many issues, including poverty, racism, immigration, family, growing-up and school life. It is a coming of age book and the title of it is quite apt - the reference to water is an interesting one - it's a good comparison to Kasienka's ever changing life and also reflects the fact that she 'finds herself' through swimming for her school.
Despite her sometimes quite fragile persona, Kasienka has an extremely strong voice from the very first verse. This story is written completely in verse, as a series of connected poems, and this method proves to be extremely effective. Every word seems important and well thought out, the language is simple yet descriptive. There were a few Polish words used at the beginning which I was unsure of, but they felt natural, it was easy to guess what they meant and it added a real sense of authenticity to Kasienka's voice. I managed to connect with her from the very beginning. She is very open and vulnerable but also has a strong personality and doesn't give up easily.
Our protagonist feels a lot of uncertainty, not only at her age (as she is only 12 years old) but also at her environment. There is a big contrast in cultures and it is interesting to see how Kasienka adjusts to some English customs and attitudes. Her family is also quite poor, which also causes some difficulties for her. Because of her differences, it is difficult for her to find friends in England, especially when others are being directly hostile towards her. She has no choice about a lot of things in her life and it's interesting to see how she copes with this.
Kasienka lives with her mother and their relationship sometimes causes inner conflict, especially when her father gets re-involved with their life. Their relationship was very realistic and tense at times. They were very loyal to each other and although they had troubles, they stuck together. Mama was clearly a strong and outwardly confident woman and would go to great lengths for love. However, I actually found Kasienka's relationship with an older, also foreign, man in her building - Kanoro - to be the most touching. Although there wasn't much of their dialogue discussed, it was easy to tell that they were both at ease when they were together and that they had a natural connection. I was glad to see that the (very slight) romance and her romantic interest, William, wasn't overwritten - he simply seemed to be a likeable boy who took notice her. The similarities and blossoming friendship between the newest pupil after Kasienka joined the school was also intriguing.
Overall, this was an amazing book that really surprised me - it was so much better than expected. It reminded me a lot of Faiza Guene's Kiffe Kiffe Demain, but I enjoyed it more thanks to a more likeable protagonist. The fact that it dealt with such a wide variety of important issues as well as being written in a very poetic way was incredible. I would not hesitate to recommend this book or to pick up more of Crossan's books in the future.
This is the first book I've read which is written entirely in verse. I thought at first that I was going to find that difficult because I imagined it would feel disjointed to read but in actuality the verse flowed beautifully, the story unfolded smoothly and each separate verse was interconnected to the next so in some ways it was just like reading normal prose but with even more lyrical prowess.
The story is about a young girl called Kasienka who comes to England with her mother, to seek her father who left and abandoned them. Her mother is desperate to find them and believes they can do so by trawling the streets with a map and knocking on people's doors - just one of the many touching and heartbreaking moments in the book. Kasienka is bullied at school by another girl called Clair for being too white, having too short hair, having the wrong bag but essentially for being different. She eventually finds peace with a new friend and a boy called William who she meets at her local swimming pool.
Swimming is Kasienka's solace and it's when she's in the water that she feels sleek and self-assured and she can momentarily forget the many troubles which weigh heavy on her young shoulders. I loved the way in which her character develops throughout the book and although she has many issues to face she does so with her head held high.
The book is about immigration and alienation and trying to fit in with people who judge you on appearance without getting to know the real you and the person inside. Kasienka has to deal with peoples' prejudices, even those of the adults around her and an example of this is the way that she's initially put in a lower grade at school because her English isn't fluent but in reality she's actually extremely bright and intelligent and capable of studying at the same level as other people her age. The story teaches us to be accepting of people from different cultures and to not make snap judgements about others.
I thought 'The Weight of Water' was extremely moving and a powerful read which really touched me. I was drawn into the story and felt a great sense of empathy for Kasienka. Although this isn't normally the sort of book I'd pick up as the subject matter isn't one which would usually appeal to me I found it a lovely debut by an exciting new talent.