So far in my time as a book reviewer, the majority of the books I have read, with a few exceptions, tend to have more of a religious/supernatural element to them, many of which contained Christian themes and elements. So when I came across "Occupied" by Joss Sheldon, I found myself dealing with a story and world that I had yet to explore as a book reviewer.
According to his website, Joss Sheldon is a 34-year-old man who has a degree from the London School of Economics. Before he became a writer, Sheldon spent his time “selling falafel at music festivals, being a ski-bum, and failing to turn the English Midlands into a haven of rugby league”. In 2013, Sheldon moved to McLeod Gan, a village in India full of Tibetan refugees. This turned out to be the beginning of his travels that eventually led him to write "Occupied".
"Occupied" is a story from the perspective of four different people in the Middle East who experience occupations of various sorts over the course of their lives. The story starts out following Tamsin and her daily life with the Godlies in the village of Doomba. After Doomba is attacked by a group of people known as The Holies, Tamsin and the surviving Godlies of Doomba relocate to the town of Natale as refugees. After that, the story switches to the perspective of Ellie, a Natale native whose father, like many of the natives, complains that the refugees are stealing their jobs, and that they should be expelled from their land. Without giving away too much more of the plot, the story shifts to the perspective of the colonisers who come in later and occupy Natale after the six-day war (a boy named Arun), and the perspective of a family of economic immigrants who come in later (through the eyes of a boy named Charlie).
Some of the positives of this book are that Sheldon really captures the feel of a small village like Doomba and a small third-world town like Natale from the perspective of a child running through the village, and running through the streets and marketplace. Sheldon also does a fantastic job of capturing the irony of the refugees complaining about the Protokian soldiers taking away their jobs after the natives of Natale lodged the same complaint about the refugees earlier in the story. The thing that stops me from giving this book an A grade is the fact that part of the story is based on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Sheldon seems to be sympathetic to the narrative of that issue, which is that the Palestinians were living in the land that Israel has occupied since 1948 before Israel was given that land by the UN, and that the Israel claim that their ancestors lived in the land long before the Palestinians did (which is true if you know the historical records contained in the Old and New Testaments) is somehow illegitimate.
While I have a pretty strong disagreement with the part of the story that refers to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I will say that Sheldon has given us a book that is highly readable, well-written, and allows us to relate to the characters involved in the conflict. If you're looking for a heart-wrenching story about ordinary people living through different occupations in the middle east, then feel free to get "Occupied".