Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini


Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph by Yusra Mardini with Josie Le Blond
First published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on the 3rd May 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Yusra Mardini fled her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015 and boarded a small dinghy full of refugees bound for Greece. When the small and overcrowded boat's engine cut out, it began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they eventually landed on Lesbos, saving the lives of the passengers aboard.

Butterfly is the story of that remarkable woman, whose journey started in a war-torn suburb of Damascus and took her through Europe to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Yusra Mardini is an athlete, one of People magazine’s twenty-five women changing the world, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of Time Magazine’s thirty most influential teens of 2016.

I was almost in tears at the culmination of this inspirational memoir! Mardini's story of determination, survival, and the kindness of strangers is one that certainly does need to be shared widely around the world. I found the contrast between the cheering crowds for the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio and the hate-filled rhetoric for refugees generally in Britain to be a sad indictment of my country. Two years after the Rio Olympics, there is still plenty money available to send yet more bombs to Syria, but apparently very little to support and assist the resulting flood of refugees.

Butterfly is a very engaging and readable biography. Mardini and Le Blond make a great writing team and I found myself caught up this story from the first few pages. From living a relatively affluent life in Syria, promising young athlete Yusra Mardini slowly sees her opportunities and dreams eroded by the ever-approaching civil war in Syria. Her family is forced to repeatedly move house to escape the fighting until, eventually, there really isn't anywhere left to go. Simple actions like swimming in a pool or walking to the shops are potentially fatal. Mardini puts across well the stress of living under such conditions. It is intolerable and terrifying, but yet becomes 'normal' frighteningly swiftly. I wondered how traumatised people must be in order to deal so calmly with such intense danger on a daily basis.

I was amazed by the perceptions of Syrian life that Mardini encounters and the assumptions a proportion of Europeans have of refugees and their lives prior to war in their homelands. Like Clemantine Wamariya in The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Mardini discusses the charity she receives and how difficult it is for her to reconcile the life she had before with now needing to rely on the kindness of strangers for absolutely everything. She is aware that knowledge of her athletic prowess enables her to be fast tracked through administrative hoops with which most refugees must struggle and this is an interesting point to consider too. Many refugees are highly skilled and have talents which would benefit European society - they couldn't financially afford to make the journey otherwise - so, by veiling their potential behind that 'refugee' catch-all, are we Westerners actually setting ourselves up to lose out in the long term?

As in The Baghdad Clock by Shadad Al Rawi, Butterfly gives readers an excellent insight into why these refugees have left everything in order to start again elsewhere. It is sobering to understand just how much the Mardini family endured before they felt they must flee, and also how easily a nation can fracture into all-consuming war especially when the rest of the world simply stands by and watches.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yusra Mardini / Biography and memoir / Books from Syria

14 comments:

  1. I don't read non-fiction often, but when I do it is almost always a memoir. It sounds like this was a very powerful one, and it almost bringing you to tears shows just how inspirational their journey was! I am intrigued and will look into this one further. I don't think I've read a memoir that includes sport before.

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    1. I think the determination Yusra learned in order to succeed in her sport stood her in great stead when she had to flee Syria. What is even more amazing is that she is still so young!

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  2. I seem to read one non.fic a year, but it is always books like this, and i always like them

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  3. That sounds like an interesting book.

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  4. You know a book is good when it nearly moves you to tears. And how interesting that this woman's story involves the Olympics even, as well other more serious topics. Glad this was such a good one!

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    1. As well as being an amazing story, Butterfly is also brilliantly well written with an engaging tone that really took me into the situations

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  5. Books that have emotional impacts are the ones that I enjoy the best. Awesome Review, this seems like a really powerful and memorable story.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. Loved this memoir! Inspirational on many levels :-)

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  6. oh my how can not read this one after this review?? a 5-star memoir about refugees survival that made you teary?? YES! I can relate to having to move to another country and having to lead a completely different kind of life! So YES! I'm reading it! Thank you for the great Review!

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    1. This is a Must Read! I just know you'll love Butterfly :-)

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  7. I almost never read non-fiction, but I definitely need to make an exception for this book. This is going on my TBR immediately!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Butterfly has such an engaging style that I found it didn't feel like nonfiction

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