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This tale of belonging just fails to stay on the rails

Review by Adam Weymouth

"We don't choose the stories we tell," writes Laura McVeigh in Under The Almond Tree's afterword, "they choose us." The story that has chosen this Irish-born Londoner concerns a family of Afghani refugees who are fleeing the wreckage of their country following the Taliban's uprising.

Seen from the viewpoint of Samar - a young girl with a passion for Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - they eventually find sanctuary in two cabins of the Trans-Siberian Express, travelling back and forward on the line, making a home of perpetual movement.

In her former work, McVeigh was executive director of PEN International.

And her belief in the power of literature to transform lives shines through.

This a novel look at displacement and belonging.

It examines how we make sense of the world, but it falls short through McVeigh never quite managing to believably bridge the gap between her own world and Samar's.

  • Under The Almond Tree,  by Laura McVeigh. Two Roads, £17.99

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