Book Review: Fractured

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Fractured, by Clár Ní Chonghaile, is a political thriller set in and around contemporary Somalia. The country is overflowing with insurgents, power hungry terrorists, and local people reluctantly drawn into the latest bloody conflict by the mayhem their everyday lives have become. It is a fascinating exploration of how and why seemingly ordinary people become killers. It offers a chance of empathy if not understanding.

The protagonist is a journalist, Peter Maguire, who has been kidnapped and held hostage by a group seeking wealth from their unexpected encounter with a white man on the streets of Mogadishu. As he lies beaten on the floor of a crude shelter, mentally numbed and awaiting his fate, Peter strikes up a tentative rapport with one of his captors. Abdi is working for his uncle and feels some sympathy for the westerner:

“I did not want to be a part of reducing a man to less than a goat to be slaughtered when he has no way to defend himself.”

The local people value the ties of kinship and clan, something that strangers to the country sometimes struggle to grasp. They will seek to avenge the injustices rained down on their people, but resent the rules imposed by each set of incomers claiming to have their best interests at heart.

The story is told from three points of view: Peter, Abdi, and Peter’s mother, Nina. Although now retired, divorced and living alone in Paris, Nina was also once an intrepid journalist in troubled Africa. She has lived a life full of regrets and seeks redemption in working to secure the freedom of her only child.

As a reader who struggles to understand the forces driving the relentless killing in these far away places, I was perplexed as much by small details as by the overall picture painted in this tale. There was hatred of the west and their values, yet coca cola seemed to be regarded as an esteemed treat. Those who had travelled and received an education abroad appeared to be revered more than those who had stayed true to the traditions of their homeland.

The author wishes readers to consider the concept of freedom, be it of place or ways of thinking. Each character is hemmed in by their history and struggles against personal and familial expectations. The westerners travelled in an attempt to escape the bonds they had placed around themselves. This was rarely an option for the Africans, hemmed in as they were by poverty and travel restrictions imposed by an unwelcoming world. They were forced to cope with their demons in the full glare of those who bound them in emotional chains.

I enjoyed joining the journey with Abdi and Peter but felt less empathy towards Nina. As a woman this makes me uncomfortable. I wonder how much my own history and expectations feed such prejudices.

This is an unusual but highly readable account of a terrifying ordeal which changes the lives of all involved. The story is not so much about the catalyst though, the kidnapping, as about lives lived and the ripples these cause.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Legend Press.

Q&A with Legend Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Lottie from Legend Press to my blog. Legend was set up ten years ago and became one of the fastest-growing independent publishers. They proudly proclaim their passion for championing both new and high-profile authors, and for ensuring that the book remains a product of beauty, enjoyment and fulfillment.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this press who, in 2011, were shortlisted for the Bookseller Independent Publisher of the Year.

1. Why did you decide to set up Legend Press?

Legend Press was founded ten years ago by Tom Chalmers who owns Legend Times Group.

2. What sort of books do you want to publish?

We publish literary fiction, commercial crime and women’s fiction. We also have a non-fiction imprint, Paperbooks and a business book imprint, Legend Business.

3. How do you go about finding and signing authors?

The majority of our authors are submitted to us by their agents. We do also take unsolicited submissions and obviously receive foreign submissions from around the world.

4. Is your experience of marketing what you expected when you started out?

The way in which we market has evolved over the years as social media is playing a greater role in how consumers interact with both authors and publishing houses.

5. There are a good number of small, independent publishers out there publishing some great works. Do you consider yourself different and, if so, how?

We work hard to ensure our books remain a product of beauty. We care deeply about the titles that we publish so each one has to stand out and they are selected to be part of our list for a reason. Publishing is a very competitive marketplace so when we take our list to international book fairs we have to feel confident that we can compete. We had two books longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year which was a fantastic achievement. Our authors are also invited to literary festivals such as Cheltenham, Bath and Edinburgh which always means there is a great atmosphere when they meet fans of their books.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

This depends completely on who you are selling to. Each title on our list is completely original but that’s not to say that brands don’t work. Our crime authors for instance, write very original crime stories yet their second, third and fourth books are packaged commercially so they can hold their own in high street shops and supermarkets.

7. Ebook or hard copy – what do your buyers want?

Again this depends on the customer – all of our titles are published in both ebook and paperback formats simultaneously so everyone is catered for.

8. Do you consider Legend Press niche or mainstream?

We are mainstream, our books are stocked by all the major retailers both in the UK and abroad. The cover designs are special, we choose effects that will ensure the customer enjoys holding our books and it makes our titles pop out at customers from the bookshelf. But in terms of sales and marketing, we have a very commercial, mainstream list.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

We always welcome our authors input and we invite them to give suggestions on how they would like the end result to look, but the majority of the work in regards to taking the book from a manuscript to the shops is done in-house.

10. Plans for the future?

Our list is growing year on year as is our staff numbers. We’re very excited to see what 2016 brings and can’t wait to share with everyone what we have in store.

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Thank you to Lottie for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about this press, including details of their books, on their website by clicking here: Legend Press • Legend Times Group

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Legend Press (@Legend_Press)

untouchable  fractured

Look out for my reviews of both of the above books, coming soon!

If you are an independent publisher and would like to be included in this series please check out my introductory post: Shout Out to Independent Publishers