Thursday 5 December 2019

Nina X by Ewan Morrison @MrEwanMorrison @FleetReads #NinaX #SaltairePrize

Nina X has never been outside. She has never met another child.
Nina X has no books, no toys and no privacy.
Nina X has no idea what the outside world is like.
Nina X has a lot to learn.
Nina X has no mother and no father; she has Comrade Chen, and Comrades Uma, Jeni and Ruth. Her closest emotional connection is with the birds she sees when she removes the plasterboard that covers her bedroom window. Comrade Chen has named her The Project; she is being raised entirely separated from the false gods of capitalism and the cult of the self. He has her record everything in her journal, to track her thoughts. To keep her ideology pure, her words are erased, over and over again. But that was before. Now Nina is in Freedom, and all the rules have changed. She has to remember that everything is opposite to what she was told, and yet Freedom seems to be a very confusing and dangerous place.

Nina X by Ewan Morrison was published in hardback by Fleet Press on 4 April 2019.  The paperback will be released in April next year.

There's a quote on the cover of Nina X from Ian Rankin. He says 'Sensational. Like Nothing I've ever read."
I agree with every word. In fact, I'd just like to say those words and leave it there. Nothing I can say in this review would ever do this incredible novel justice. It's utterly compelling, it's frightening, it made my blood run cold at times. It also made me smile. It's one of those books that you really do find difficult to put down.

I believe that Morrison's Nina X is loosely based upon the case of Aravindan Balakrishnan who was jailed in 2016 for abusing and mistreating the women who were part of the Maoist cult that he led in London. I've always had something of a strange fascination about cults, and what makes people give up everything to become part of one, and indeed, what reason anyone has to create one and control a group of people.

Nina X is twenty-eight years old when she leaves the house she grew up in for the very first time. Her story is told through her jotters; those written whilst she was still in the house, and those written since she became free.

It did take me a little while to settle into the structure and style of this novel. Although told in the first person, Nina often refers to herself as 'The Project'; for that was her name; and that's what all of her 'Comrades' called her.

Nina is Comrade Chen's project. She's been brought up by the female comrades; not knowing which of them, if any is her mother, and her father is never spoken of. Nina has never been to school, or to the doctor, or the dentist. Her only connection with the outside world are the birds that she sees if she dares to pull back the board that covers her window.

Then Nina is in 'Freedom' and it is then that her education really begins. As she realises, slowly that rain is not radiation and not everyone is a 'fascist Pig'.

This is an utterly convincing novel that will stay in my mind for a very long time. Ewan Morrison's creation of characters is spellbinding; from 'Charity Sonya' who really only wants to help, to Comrade Chen who has brainwashed and abused everyone he comes across.
Seeing the world through Nina's eyes is often heartbreaking for her, and for the reader but there's also an element of humour and warmth that add so much depth to what could potentially be such a dark and dismal tale.

I adored this book. It is extraordinary, absorbing, disturbing and really quite marvellous.

Nina X is Ewan Morrison's seventh book. 
He is the author of the award-winning novels Close Your Eyes and Tales from the Mall, the novels Ménage, Distance and Swung and the short story collection The Last Book You Read. 
Ewan was awarded the Glenfiddich Writer of the Year Award and the SMIT novel of the year 2012/2013.

Nina X won the Saltaire Fiction Book of the Year 2019 

Website :
Twitter : @MrEwanMorrison

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