Emma Jane Kirby – The Optician of Lampedusa

For all those people who think that ‘immigrants are coming over here to get our benefits and our jobs’. For all those people who say that they are stupid to risk their lives coming over here. For all those people who think the migrant crisis can be ignored. For all those people who couldn’t care less. This book is for you. And it is essential reading.

For this book is not an easy read. It’s not a nice fluffy bedtime story that is going to leave you feeling warm and cosy inside. It’s a harrowing tale of one man’s experience with a group of migrants. A single group out of the many who have endured the same fate.

The optician has been looking forward to the summer boat trip with his friends for ages, and as he wakes up after the first night at sea, he curses the seagulls who are shrieking all too loud. But as he gets out of bed and drinks his first cup of coffee, he realises that those sounds are not seagulls, but the shrieks of dying people screaming for help. And so the optician’s nightmare begins.

We’ve all heard on the news about the sinking of migrant boats, but it can feel distant and hard to understand the true horror. But Kirby has done an excellent job of telling the opticians story in a way that is impossible to forget. I sat on the bus openly weeping for an hour yesterday morning because I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, but I also couldn’t forget that this isn’t fiction. It’s real. It’s still happening.

I don’t know what drew me to buying this book, I think it was partially due to the fact that Waterstones are donating £5 to Oxfam for every copy sold, so I thought I’d have nothing to lose. But I can honestly say that this book will haunt me. It’s impossible not to be affected by the beautifully written prose, and I will recommend this book to everyone.

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.28
117 pages. Published in: 2016
Read in Hardbackon 16th-18th November 2016

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