By William Sutcliffe
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 37450
Books don't come with much more direct or intriguing titles than this. It's a brilliant hint of what is to come in William Sutcliffe's intriguing novel.
Thirteen-year-old Joshua lives with his mother and stepfather in a town that is divided into two zones by a high wall. Youngsters growing up in Joshua's part of the town are told one important fact: you must never venture to the other side of the Wall or even ask questions about what exists there.
There is a checkpoint break in the Wall, but only soldiers and those with a special permit are allowed through. The Wall was built to keep families like Joshua's safe from harm, and the best thing to do is ask no questions about the gigantic cement barricade and just accept that it is there.
But there is always talk, and Joshua is a young boy who listens. They say that beyond the wall there is a brutal and vicious enemy. It is true that gunfire can sometimes be heard in the distance, and sinister flashes and fierce lightning sometimes light up the night sky.
The answers to any questions Joshua has will come soon enough, when he reaches his late teens and has to do military service. Then he will find out what lies behind the Wall and discover its true purpose.
One day, Joshua is searching a strip of wasteland for a ball he has kicked further than intended, when he stumbles across the entrance to a hidden tunnel. He scarcely needs to be told where the tunnel leads. This is a great chance for the inquisitive youngster to solve a mystery he cannot resist.
What Joshua finds on the other side of the Wall, and the people he meets there, have a profound effect on his imagination.
When Joshua manages to return home, he brings back with him a personal debt that he is determined to repay at any cost.
The Wall skilfully mixes private pain and devastating political conflict into a very clever plot. On the surface, the story is about a young teenager who makes a short journey that causes him to question his ideas of loyalty, justice and identity; but underneath, there is much more than that.
Set in a community that mirrors the current, tense political situation of Israel's Left Bank, Sutcliffe's book tells the moving and gripping tale of one boy finding personal hope amid the turmoil.
The Wall is a powerful work that offers thrills while raising questions that any compassionate reader will find poignant and extremely emotive.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com