#BlogTour Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi

Today it’s the BlogTour Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi translated from the Dutch language by Jonathan Reeder.

About the Author

Rodaan Al Galidi is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel De autist en de postduif (‘The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon’) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.

Follow on GoodreadsBuy Two Blankets, Three Sheets

About the book

‘You have to take care, Mr Karim,’ she said, ‘this is your future.’ With the word ‘this’ she picked up the report from the first hearing. I was amused at the idea that my future would be determined by a few sheets of paper, and not by my health, my happiness or my dreams. Or a never-ending barbeque on the beach, or travelling the world on a legitimate passport.’

Amsterdam Airport, 1998. Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. Fleeing Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army, he has spent seven years anonymously wandering through Asia. Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum centre and assigned a bed in a shared dorm—where he will spend the next nine years.

Taking its title from the ‘two blankets, three sheets, a towel, a pillow, and a pillow-case’ that constitute the items Samir is given on his arrival at the Asylum Centre, and are the only things he owns during his nine years there, this book is the story of how Samir navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy while trying his best to get along with his 500 new housemates.

Told with compassion and a unique sense of humour, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.

Review the book

The full title of this book is Two Blankets, Three Sheets, a Towel, a Pillow and a Pillowcase. It may seem arbitrary, and it is certainly a mouthful, but the importance of the title becomes clear as the author tells the story of his main character, which is not unlike his own story. Those items are one of the few consistencies throughout his time in the Dutch asylum and refugee system.

At the beginning of the book Al Galidi includes an interesting paragraph about the way this story should or could be perceived. To the author this is fiction based in fact, and hopes it will perceived as such by those who read it, however for those to whom the category of nonfiction is too difficult to digest – let it be fiction. It’s all too easy to deny any humanity to refugees or asylum seekers, and deny that there is any wrongdoing on the part of the regimented law and rule-abiding Western world. I can imagine there are plenty who find it easy to disparage the accounts of refugees when they complain about mistreatment, abuse, lack of interest and keeping thousands of people detained in a state of limbo for years and decades.

I lived on the German/Dutch border for many decades and am well acquainted with certain quirks of the Dutch and the Germans. Every nationality has them, and there are specific attitudes that are evident especially in countries that border on other ones, perhaps more so when there has been conflict. On the surface the Dutch persona tends to be laid-back, pleasant, multi-cultural, open, multilingual and a pleasure to interact with. However, when you fall into the category of dislike that aura of the pleasant Netherlander is replaced by another persona altogether.

I can say that having experienced it as a legal alien, as a person who was confronted with their complete and utter bureaucratic idiocy, despite EU law. I can imagine the same can be said for many other countries that have opened their doors to refugees. This story goes back a few decades and the new waves of refugees bring different concerns with them, due to the very real danger of a world filled with terrorists. Unfortunately the refugees who genuinely seek sanctuary and shelter from war and hunger-torn countries, and want to live in peace – they are forgotten in the midst of all the uncertainty and fear.

It’s a poignant fictional story, which could be an account consumed by anger and frustration, and yet it isn’t, despite everything the author has actually been through. This voice is one of a forgotten time in a way, because life moves so quickly and we are confronted with such violence on a daily basis that many people simply fall in between the cracks of the systems.

Buy Two Blankets, Three Sheets at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: World Editions Ltd, pub date Paperback 1 Jan. 2020 – digital copy 7 Jan 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Kill the Silence: A Survivor’s Life Reclaimed by Monika Kørra

download (18)

Kørra probably won’t win any awards for her literary style, prose or writing in general, however she certainly deserves recognition for being brave enough to face her demons and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

For having the strength to lay bare her experiences and emotions, so others can see that there is a life beyond rape. Learning how to cope is a day by day and hour by hour uphill battle.

Her story is an autobiographical account of the horrific kidnap and gang rape ordeal she went through, as a college student.

Not only was she literally grabbed from the streets right in front of her friends, she was a student in a foreign country at the time. No family or childhood friends to support her during the aftermath of her ordeal.

Monika was lucky enough to have made a close-knit group of college friends, who were there to support her. In fact the details of the kidnap bound them together in a way I think outsiders might have trouble understanding.

I think one of the things that stood out for me the most was the treatment Monika received, specifically the way the police and hospital handled her. Lacking in sensitivity, in training, in understanding and in empathy.

The other thing was. and this is in no way a criticism, far from it, was the complete detachment from an emotional point of view.

Completely normal in her situation and certainly a coping technique. Keeping a wall between the flood of emotions and the memories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as a support system is in place.
Kudos to her for surviving, being strong and sharing her story.

Thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for my copy of Kill the Silence.
Buy Kill the Silence at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris


It is certainly an interesting way to write an autobiography. The reader gets to pick which direction they want the life of Neil Patrick Harris to go. So, for instance you get to the end of a chapter get three choices and pick one. That in turn takes you to another chapter and three other choices.

No matter what you pick, when you start from the beginning again, you never get the same story twice. That in itself makes it an extraordinary read. In essence the read you experience depends completely on your own mood when you pick which direction you want to go in. The power to decide which way to go and what choices to make.

The concept works better digitally, obviously clicking a link is faster and more efficient than searching for specific pages in a hard-copy. I think that would be the only downside to the way it is constructed. Other than that it is quite entertaining.

I think one of my favourite chapters or should I say some of, are the ones about the children. The careful planning, the selection process and the hilarious POTUS like security scheme when the babies are born.

What is absolutely clear to any reader is just how much Neil loves his husband David, and their children Harper and Gideon. He sounds content, as if all his boxes have been ticked and everything else is just a cherry on top of his very own ice-cream sundae.

My very own voyage with this book was taken at a time of stress and worry. I chose an amusing, happy and fulfilling read, which is exactly what I got. I finished it with a smile on my face and a chuckle on my lips.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss.

From Harvard to Holocaust by John Stoessinger


It would be interesting to read Stoessinger’s story written by someone other than himself. Why? First of all he does not give himself enough credit for his achievements and the difficult path he had to wander. Secondly he is far too attached and close to the events, especially in his personal relationships, to open up about them or be objective.

Instead throughout the book there is a level of disconnect, which is completely normal for people who have been through horrific trauma, especially during the Holocaust.

Whilst he is describing his relationships there seems to be a lack of conscious thought about his own role in the failure of his relationships. The almost indifferent way he talks about his philandering, his abandonment of wives and children, and the femme fatale, who almost destroys him.

If you go all the way back to the lack of a father in his life, and the way his mother didn’t protect him from his abusive stepfather, things become clearer. It is almost as if he didn’t want to subject his own children to the disappointment of being hurt by him. Ironically that is exactly what happened anyway.

Being pulled from the arms of his beloved grandparents, the only ones who really showed any compassion or warmth for him, is probably the root and cause of most of his emotional problems. The fact his mother and stepfather couldn’t save them is secondary to the fact that in his mind he is the one who abandoned them and couldn’t save them from the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

On top of that horrific thought and knowing they must have suffered, is the knowledge that their bodies are in a mass grave. Nameless, homeless, unclaimed and forever beyond reach for him.

When I say emotional I mean his complete detachment from his own experiences and choices, as he tells the story of his life. I think without knowing it Stoessinger has actually opened up a very large window into his heart and soul, perhaps just not the window he planned to present and open in this book.

I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss.