Friday 6 November 2015

The Truth About Peacock Blue

The Truth About Peacock Blue by Rosanne Hawke (Allen & Unwin 2015)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN: 9781743319949

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

Aster is a fourteen year old girl from a small village in Pakistan. Following the tragic loss of her brother and best friend, Ijaz, her family decides that rather than follow tradition and arrange her early marriage, Aster will be given the opportunity to attend the Government High School so that she may become a teacher and help support her family.

Despite suggestion that Aster will be free to follow her Christian faith, anti-Christian sentiment at the Muslim school is rife. She is bullied and demeaned by peers and treated with contempt by Arabic and Islamic teacher, Mrs Abdul.
Buoyed by the love of family and friends and the strength of her faith, Aster persists with her studies, but when Mrs Abdul accuses her of blasphemy, life as she knows it ceases to exist.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan dictate that anyone accused of insulting Islam faces a potential death sentence, and although her teacher can offer no proof of the crime, Aster has no recourse to fight the injustice of laws that critics argue are used to persecute minorities and settle vendettas.

From a Western perspective, Aster’s immediate imprisonment and seemingly lawless treatment is difficult to comprehend, as is the imminent threat to her family and village.
Rosanne Hawke, an aid worker in Pakistan for many years, has woven a powerful, captivating story inspired by Pakistani women and children such as Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who, after nearly five years on death row, awaits the outcome of an appeal on a disputed blasphemy charge.

Hawke builds a heart-wrenching account of Aster’s fight to maintain her dignity, values and beliefs in unbearable circumstances, and uses social media to offer a global perspective of her plight, drawing attention to the freedoms that we as Australians enjoy in our safe, democratic society.

She also provides a timely account of why people might be forced to abandon their lives – their families, friends and all that they cherish – in the hopes of sharing the freedoms we take for granted.

Suitable for high school students and a significant and poignant read for all Australians.

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