Musings and photographs from a man in a little house by a river, on a little island at the bottom of the world.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Randa Abdel-Fattah – Noah’s Law - A Book Review

I had the pleasure of attending a book launch by this young lady in Hobart recently, and what an accomplished person she is! A leading light in her community, she is also an author in the young adult and new adult fiction areas, as well as a practicing lawyer. She spoke to a us in an exceedingly articulate manner about the background to her books – those she is best known for, including ‘Does My Head Look Big in This’, as well as her latest – ‘No Sex in the City’. The one under review here, ‘Noah’s Law’, rated nary a mention, and I now somewhat regret my entry point into her oeuvre as it is not what she is noted for – the condition of young Muslim women in contemporary Australian society. On the strength of the quality of writing in this, the odd one out in that the protagonist is male, I’ll be seeking out her other offerings.

Is it unreasonable of me to have reservations about bright teensters out detecting the detectives, out lawyering the lawyers? My daughter, a YA author herself, will probably shake her lovely head at this, and I realise I probably make this statement because I am an anachronistic old man in his dotage. That being said, ‘Noah’s Law’ is immensely enjoyable, even if it is what I describe as a ‘grower’ – it starts slowly, but then sneaks up on the reader so that, by the end, he/she is hooked by its intrigue. How will our heroes of tender years win out over the devilish adult evil doers? It’s a given they will, but seemingly up against the legal system, as well as the conspirators, the odds are decidedly stacked against them!

For this peruser, the novel is at its best in the courtroom scenes when the author uses her vocational expertise to take us through the various stages of prosecution and defence. Our hero is born of the silver spoon, possesses the necessary arrogance to get ahead, and even has romantic intentions seemingly above his station. The two main female characters are well drawn, and interesting foils to Noah’s tendency to self-indulge. They provide the balance to his pranks and, once he is ‘won over’, his schemes. They come at him, though, from diametrically opposite viewpoints. The over-riding theme throughout is ‘does the means justify the end’ with, of course, by the end, ‘right’ prevailing.

For an adult reader, there isn’t a problem with the ‘slow burn’ nature of the narrative as it builds. I just wonder, though, if the desired audience has the patience to hang-in there – or is that too demeaning of the age group? Also, would the denim dominated cover attract the demographic? I’m no judge of this after initially failing to stock the first Harry Potter in my school library because I felt the cover was too naff – so what would I know??? I suspect the dialogue between Noah and his best mate, let alone between the criminals, could have a bit more edge, but this is a seriously competent effort and has me looking forward to more.

Harking back to her launch, it was so saddening to hear this beautiful woman relate the trials and tribulations inflicted on her as a Muslim child by our country’s redneck brigade. As a nation that generally does multiculturalism well, if decidedly not our processing of asylum seekers, it still jolts that there are those in our society who achieve glee from overt prejudice. Although Hobs is getting there, I delight in visits to Melbourne where ‘I open my eyes and see the world’. As an Australian who therefore greatly appreciates the wonderful contribution that non-Anglos make to our culture, I wanted to apologise to her then and there. It all needs addressing, but how?

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