Reviews

Your husband is a murderer

A Devil's Child 

Review Diane Shugart

Judit Neurink draws on her long experience reporting on Iraq and the Kurds to craft another layered story where the conflicts in the headlines play out in the emotional battles fought by her characters. Love can skew our judgement and so can politics.

Anna must navigate these two passions as she untangles the truths in Iraq and in her relationships to investigate, on the field but also in her heart, a shocking message: “Your husband is a murderer.”

Diane Shugart, writer and translator

 

It feels like I was there

A Devil's Child 

Review by Rina Spigt

Some news items on TV I will never forget. Breaking news, real and raw: world history. Like on a Sunday in December 2003: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!’ A report of how Saddam Hussein was found in a cellar somewhere in Iraq’s countryside. We see a hole in the ground and a clochard: the long sought after and run down dictator.

I thought: ‘it’s like a movie or novel’. But I realized that the combination of journalism and fiction is not always a happy one.

Yet it is very well possible to write a suspenseful novel and situate it in an existing world. Judit Neurink’s latest novel is situated mainly in the Kurdish part of Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s cruel rule. She knows the decors and images there, as a journalist in the Middle East she saw them up close.

The story in short: Dutch journalist Anna is married to photographer Karim who is from Iraqi descent and was politically active in Iraq. While she is married to him and on a work trip in Iran, she falls in love with her colleague Davoud. Anna gets pregnant with Davoud’s daughter Zina, who Karim presumes is his child.

A large part of the story covers Anna’s and Davoud’s search to find Zina, whom Karim has kidnapped and taken to the Middle East. We are confronted with political intrigue in an atmosphere of threats and danger. But nowhere, the story loses its believability, this does not seem to be made up, it is real.

The scene I enjoyed most reminds me of the TV images I described: the farm and the hole under the ground where Saddam was found. Here, Neurink brings the three main characters in the book together. Here, the last conversation takes place, reluctant at first and full of questions, but then harder and more confronting. It’s about revenge and destruction, but also about ‘how to go on from here?’ And that’s exactly what I would like to know myself too.

It’s fiction, but it feels as if I was there.

Rina Spigt, journalist

First review of A Devil's Child

A Devil's Child 

Review by Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas

When we fall in love, do we really know who the other person is?

Judit Neurink presents a love story set amidst radical Islamic surroundings: hush-hush meetings with activists, teas in muted households, and deadly betrayal and intrigue. While it is fiction, Neurink weaves in personal insights from her many years of living and working in the Middle East.

Thankfully, in this tale, female tenacity triumphs.

Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas, writer (columnist/journalist/features writer)

 

‘The Good Terrorist’ is almost too real

The Good Terrorist   Review by Chris Stirling

Judit Neurink’s book takes you places you really hope you never have to experience. Her vivid depiction of life inside the Caliphate is almost too real. A hateful world in which goodness is crushed by fear.

For those of us who barely skim the news which is reported, this opens our eyes wide to the horrors of many things never properly covered in our sanitised media. You can’t help but share in the protagonist’s miscomprehension of what human beings are prepared to do to each other in the name of religion. The book’s characters are well written, utterly believable, and brought to life not just by the events that befall them, but also by the emotions with which they respond to those events.

It’s immediately clear that Neurink has spent a lot of time in the region, growing to understand the particular idiosyncrasies of this awful chapter in the history of our planet. The book encourages us to think not only about how we respond to religion and the notion of terrorism, but more than this, it makes us consider the very nature of our humanity. You are left with a feeling of helplessness, of despair for how so many people can be so brutally marginalised, so close to home, without it registering on the average person’s daily news radar.

What happened in the Caliphate during the dark years portrayed in The Good Terrorist needs to be well chronicled, to bring home horrible truths and open our eyes to the atrocities we as humans can inflict on each other. In Judit Neurink, a skilful chronicler has been found, and the pages of her book are in every way as fascinating as they are traumatic. She knows that to simply tell the story of the horrors of ISIS would alienate readers, particularly those who don’t often find their fiction so framed by fact. So for every cruel machination of ISIS that is described, for every act of terror or wanton destruction, there is also a counterfoil.

We are shown how humanity in its purest form can flourish abundantly, if not always visibly, in the harshest of environments. We are told as much a story of love, hope and redemption as we are one of death, destruction and hopelessness. This is what makes this novel so good. The reader is constantly oscillating between the abject hopelessness of a situation, and the unbelievable bravery and courage of the love that counters it. The fundamental believability of what is in essence a work of fiction, comes quite clearly from the exposure the author has had to the situations described, but also from diligent and detailed research, and a brilliant understanding of human psyche. I look forward to reading much, much more from Judit Neurink in the coming years

Chris Stirling, Edinburgh June 2023

I simply could not put down ‘The Good Terrorist’!

The Good Terrorist   Review by Boris O. Dittrich

Neurink’s novel is based on true-life stories from the Caliphate. And this is immediately clear by the way she draws you into the story of the Dutch woman Rose whose ex-partner from Moroccan descent Ahmed secretly left for the caliphate in Syria. Why did he leave? Did he become religious and supportive of ISIS?

The novel starts when Rose happens to see a picture of Ahmed on the internet. ISIS claims he died while carrying out a suicide attack near the Turkish border. Rose finds this hard to believe and starts investigating what has happened.

Neurinks description of the cruelties and inhuman behavior in the Caliphate and what the characters in her story must endure, showcases her knowledge about ISIS and this region of the world. You can feel, hear, see and smell the way people lived under inhuman conditions, while corruption, betrayal, cruelty and the hypocrisy of radical Islam were wide spread. The novel borders on the thriller genre as well. As reader you simply want to read on to find out what happened to Ahmed. Without spoiling the plot I can disclose that Rose goes to the region to investigate what happened to her ex-husband. We see the conditions in which people live in refugee camps through her eyes. This makes the story easily accessible for people in the rest of the world.

Neurink has a great talent of depicting her characters. They come to life as real people, each traumatised by the way they were confronted with radical Islam. Fortunately, the story is not only about painful, negative events. It also contains uplifting elements of brave women and men who reject and resist radical Islam and who find their way out of the hellish conditions that were imposed on them.

Apart from thoroughly enjoying this suspenseful novel I learned more about the plight of Yazidi women who were captured by ISIS to become sex slaves. They could escape thanks to people with a moral compass who operated in secret networks.

I simply could not put down ‘The Good Terrorist’ and loved travelling under Neurink’s guidance to the Caliphate. And am happy to be back!

Boris O. Dittrich, Novelist and Senator in the Netherlands

Rich in detail

The Good Terrorist

Review by Quentin Sommerville, BBC-reporter

“The tension in Judit Neurink’s latest novel is like a weight upon your chest, rich in detail it captures the fear and uncertainty as Islamic State’s emerged, and the group’s ability to reach far beyond its borders into the lives and minds of recruits in the west.”

Quentin Sommerville, war reporter for the BBC

Expert inside glance

The Good Terrorist

Review by Willem Meiners, ex publisher and editor

Judit Neurink has written a quality fictional account of a painfully nonfictional reality. She provides an expert inside glance into a world that most of us know nothing about: the horror and anguish of families who are left to wonder whether and why loved ones have joined a terrorist organization. The author has lived and worked among Iraqi and Kurd fighters for years, and bears witness of what she knows firsthand and has seen upfront like few others can.

Willem Meiners, ex publisher and editor, author of A President in Love, a biography of Warren Harding