ARE YOU READY TO START THIS CONVERSATION?
Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.
With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning…
Title: Truth Be Told | Author: Kia Abdullah | Publisher: HQ | Pages: 384 | ISBN: 9780008314743 | Publication date: 3rd September 2020 | Source: NetGalley
‘Truth Be Told’ is in many ways an excellent novel, and it’s certainly an admirable one. I’d not heard of Kia Abdullah before I saw this on NetGalley, but I’ll definitely be reading more by her. She tells an emotionally complex story, avoiding easy answers, and in doing so delivers a book with a lasting impact.
The plot is straightforward – at an exclusive boy’s school one teenage boy rapes another. The novel follows the victim and perpetrator through the investigation and trial, the main character being Zara, an assault counsellor assigned to the boy who was attacked.
What sets the book apart from others is the incredibly even-handed approach Kia Abdullah takes. To have written a novel about rape where the reader feels sorrow for the attacker as well as the attacked is no mean feat. She does it through careful characterisation. Every major player in the book is convincingly human. Flawed, in some cases tragically so, but sympathetic too. There is an intricate series of relationships between the characters, one that builds up subtly as the book unfolds so that it’s only at the end that you really appreciate it.
The context is key here too. Male rape isn’t a subject that gets examined much in crime fiction and it is done sensitively and effectively here. What’s more, the victim is a Muslim, as is Zara the counsellor and there is a great deal of discussion of Muslim (and indeed western) attitudes to masculinity. That really is the central theme of the book, even when Abdullah is writing about the counsellor’s relationship with her father it’s there.
For all the deep themes it’s a very readable book. It’s gripping throughout, largely because it’s unclear until the end how things will turn out. The courtroom scenes have real punch, but it’s the quieter moments of introspection that have the most impact. The result is a compelling, moving and at times shocking book.