There are now significantly more Lebanese people living outside Lebanon than within it. As one of them, I felt the need to write about the experiences of this diaspora. My family left Lebanon at the height of the civil war and sought refuge in the UK. This was only intended as a brief respite, but as the war raged on, it became clear that the move would be a permanent one. We visited Lebanon regularly, of course, but as time went on, the differences between the two countries became more and more marked. In the summer of 2006, when the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel suddenly erupted, I watched what was happening with horror, suspecting that when it was over, it would, like so many conflicts around the world, be quickly forgotten.
Paper Sparrows is set in that summer of 2006. Nineteen-year-old London music student, Layla, returns home for the holidays to a now peaceful Lebanon. When she arrives, though, she finds that her troubled younger brother has gone missing. "Borrowing" her father's car, she heads to Beirut to search for him, meeting a variety of people along the way. But her quest is cut short when, without warning, Beirut comes under heavy artillery fire. A new war has begun, and now she is trapped in the middle of it.
This is a story about family, young love, the joy of music, and a country in crisis. It is a story about the impact of conflict on people's lives, as well as on the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. It is a story about the desperation of not knowing what has happened to a loved one. But perhaps most of all, it is about exile, and the liminal space between two countries, two cultures, two tribes.
To read a Q&A about the writing of Paper Sparrows, click here
'A beautifully written book about memory, music and the terror of modern warfare. We need these books, full of compassion and anger, that show us the emotional damage of conflict.' - Patrice Lawrence, author of Rose Interrupted and Orangeboy
'There's a sensuous magic to this writing that caught me up and wouldn't let me go. A beautifully written story about the struggle for identity. I loved it.' - Jenny Downham, author of Before I Die, You Against Me and Furious Thing
'This is an incredible read ... A beautifully written tale of family, love, compassion and anger. Heartbreaking and heartwarming and I loved every minute.' - The Bookwormery
'I got completely lost in the last 100 pages and my day just evaporated within Nathalie's words.' - Books By The Boats
'...a fast paced read that had all the things you love in a book.' - Thebookishgurlblog
'I loved this fast paced and easy to read book. - the_lady_who_reads
'Narration at its finest pace' - slowculture.eu