THE NIGHT DIARY, by Veera Hiranandani, Dial Books, March 6, 2018, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
I think most young people would be surprised to learn that Pakistan has only been a country since the late 1940s. Prior to that, it was part of India, which was under British rule. Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary explores the events leading up to and immediately after the partition through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl.
The year is 1947. India is no longer under British rule, and while many want India to remain a unified country, it splits into two — Pakistan for Muslim Indians and India for Hindus. With the split comes a mass exodus from both sides as people move to the “designated” country. In the process, hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.
Nisha doesn’t understand why her family has to move. Her mother was Muslim, her father Hindu. The divide doesn’t make any sense to her.
As tensions grow, Papa decides it’s no longer safe for them to remain in Pakistan, and they join the thousands of refugees now in search of a new home. The journey will take them by foot and by train through rough and dry terrain. It’s long, difficult and dangerous.
Nisha’s experiences unfold through the letters she writes to her late mother in a diary. In the process she finds the true meaning of home and identity.
The Night Diary is a beautiful novel. I read it in one sitting and was captivated throughout. Nisha’s tale begins with a birthday and the receipt of her diary. And when she begins her story, her life is much like you’d expect of any 12-year-old’s. As the days pass, however, you learn how quickly ordinary can morph into something else.
Hiranandani’s prose is gentle and rich. Her characters develop with natural ease and her settings draw you further in with each page. The Night Diary is by far one of the best books I’ve read this year.
© 2018, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.