The Night Diary- Veera Hiranandani

Penguin Random House

Review By Gemma E McLaughlin

This week’s book caught my attention because of how different it is to book I normally see nowadays. The book is written around the partition of India in 1947, a topic I haven’t seen in a recent book and one I therefore know very little about. I decided to take my discovery of this book as a possible opportunity to learn more about the events through the eyes of our main character. I feel as though now I’ve read the book I know a lot more than I previously did and learned all this in a gripping and understandable way.

As I began reading the book I discovered something about the style in which it is written. We learn right away that the story is told through a series of letters by a young girl called Nisha to her mother who died giving birth to her. These letters take on a key role in not only the story but in explaining Nisha’s character as well. I found that her comfort in writing compared to her difficulty communicating verbally was a well used contrast that is still relatable today.

Over the plot we begin to see the themes around the partition emerging. This starts with Nisha overhearing grown ups talking about things she doesn’t understand, commenting eloquently on Nisha’s youthful naïveté and preparing us for how that will change throughout the novel. As Nisha and her brother Amil learn about the already growing separation in the land the two face bullying and slowly learning to recognise people not for who they are, but for their religion. It is heartbreaking to watch good, innocent characters that you have grown attached to begin to lose themselves to problems out of their reach.

The story changes swiftly from a saddening confusion and fear to raw chaos and uncertainty. As Nisha is half-Hindu and half-Muslim we follow her struggle for a sense of identity, showing just how much these letters to her mother mean, and a home for her family. Her journey is filled with discoveries about herself and more about her mother than she ever thought she would learn. This quick and brutal transition from her quiet, naïve childhood to the pain and stress of being a refugee is something that greatly impressed me about this book, it speaks truthfully about the way major changes occur and the ways we try to deal with them

Not only did I learn a lot from the story of Nisha and her family about the Partition Of India and how it affected young people but also about all large changes that happen around us every day. I feel like this book, though enjoyably and beautifully written, is necessary to read if only for the knowledge and the messages that it sends.