The Ghosts and Jamal

Publisher: Hope Road Publishing

Review

Thirteen-year-old Jamal wakes one day to find that all the other inhabitants of his West African village have been killed. He alone has survived, his hut being some way from everyone else’s. He surveys the destruction around him, trying to make sense of it. Then he packs his copy of the Qur’an and sets off in search of food and safety.

This is a powerful and moving story, set in a violent world and perceived through innocent eyes. When Jamal finds the lethal gas canister responsible for the carnage, he presumes the wisps of yellow gas to be soul-seeking ghosts. He concludes that he survived because they were scared off by the evil spirits that he knows possess him – the spirits that sometimes cause him to twitch and fall unconscious.

Throughout the book, ignorance about the epilepsy which causes Jamal’s regular fits makes him a target for prejudice and suspicion. Even well-intentioned medics and humanitarian volunteers who try to help him are guilty of a fundamental failure to understand the implications of the condition for a boy in Jamal’s position (naively instructing him to keep his medicine stored in a fridge).

This is a beautiful, mesmerising book, its harrowing nature both tempered and augmented by the fact that it is told from Jamal’s perspective of youthful simplicity. It does not end with tidy answers, but rather leaves the reader with uncomfortable questions about a world which can allow such intolerable inequality and brutality.

Share this page with your friends

More books like this

The House in Poplar Wood

Author: K E Ormsbee

Thirteen-year-old twins, Felix and Lee, live in the same house but lead very separate lives. Skilfully combining a gripping plot, intriguing characters and a convincing alternative world, populated by sinister beings, this is a dark and compelling novel.

Read more about The House in Poplar Wood

The Lion Who Stole My Arm

Author: Nicola Davies Illustrator: Annabel Wright

When a lion attacks Pedru and bites off his arm, he vows to find the lion and kill him. But as he learns more about these formidable creatures, he realises strength and courage come in different forms. An uplifting story in the excellent Heroes of the Wild series.

Read more about The Lion Who Stole My Arm