I received a review copy of this title from Peirene Press. For more information about the release of the book and the blog tour, please scroll down to the banner at the end of this post.
breach is a series of eight short stories that all focus on the plight of the refugees in Calais and the ripple effect that their presence has on the lives of everyone with whom they come in contact. The refugees in these short stories are from different countries and have made their way to this camp in Calais which is referred to as The Jungle. It is a type of holding place, a purgatory, where they are caught between the horrors of their past lives and their hopes of finding a future in Britain.
The first thought I had as I was reading breach was that these poor, downtrodden refugees must have witnessed the worst kinds of conditions and horrors in their homelands to leave everything behind for the unknown. What would make someone leave home, cross an ocean, and risk death in order to find a new place to live? The cold, the damp, the small spaces in the tents were all vividly described in these stories. One young refugee comments that the camp in Calais is a jungle, but his home was pure hell.
The stories also highlight the volunteer workers and locals who are trying to help the refugees. The town, in general, does not want the camp there and the refugees are kept in their own, separate makeshift town by fences and the constant presence of police. The story, “The Terrier” poignantly illustrates the mistrust between refugees and locals. A woman who owns a Bed and Breakfast in Calais is asked by the town council to take in two refugees, a brother and sister. Since she has no customers and is in need of income, this local resident agrees to give the refugees room and board for a fee. The woman tries to have as little contact with the young man and woman as possible. She questions and distrusts everything they tell her. But as she interacts with them she gradually comes to have sympathy for their wretched situation. Although this brother and sister have a much more comfortable place to stay than most, they still return to The Jungle every day to see their friends. They are outsiders in Calais and sadly enough the only place they feel “at home” is in the camp.
It is brave and innovative for Peirene to have commissioned a series of books like breach that will bring understanding to the plight of refugees and shine a spotlight on other policial and social issues that have arisen around the world. At times this book was difficult to read because it brought the realities of human suffering to a level I did not fully understand. It was evident from reading this book that the authors spent quite a bit of time in Calais speaking to and interacting with the refugees, the relief workers and the local residents. It is my hope that breach will be widely read and will make us all more sensitive to the suffering of refugees. We can learn some important lessons from what is happening right now in Calais.
For more information of the book please visit the websites listed in the tour banner below: