Outside in World | Browse Books
Use our Book Finder to search for books by Title (or part of the title), Author, ISBN, Age Range, Keyword, or Continent/Country. Then simply click the magnifying glass to start your search.
‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Learning to Scream
by Beate Teresa Hanika
Age Range: 14+
Learning to Scream is not an easy read as it tackles the difficult subject of sexual abuse, albeit in a sensitive way. The story is narrated by thirteen-year-old Malvina, told from her own perspective. Gradually over the course of the novel she slowly begins to reveal the terrible dark secret that has blighted her young life and that she has been unable to share with anyone else – even her best friend Lizzy. The horror of her ordeal, her confusion, fear and shame are all revealed enabling the reader to understand her struggle to deal with the repressed memories in the recess of her mind; the tremendous effort it takes her to confront them and the immense courage for her to finally tell someone.
The novel goes back and forwards between two time-frames: the current Easter holidays – with her visits to her Granddad and her fraught relationship with her family – and the previous summer holidays, when Lizzy and Malvina play in an abandoned villa that they create into their own private den; their battle with a group of boys from the local estate nearby and Malvina’s developing friendship with Screwy, one of the boys from the gang.
Malvina can’t recall much of her childhood. ‘Can you get Tippex for thoughts? And feelings? she wonders. For her it feels like opening a photo album with hundreds of ‘blind spots’. She can still make out the odd thing, half-images, torn pictures, but there are no proper memories. As Malvina struggles to cope and to block out the past she finds support from an unlikely source – Mrs Bitschek, her Granddad’s Polish neighbour – who finds a way in her broken English to let Malvina know that she understands what has been going on and to encourage her to speak out. Screwy is also there for her as their bourgeoning relationship develops.
One of the saddest aspects of this novel is the reaction of Malvina’s family, particularly her father and brother, when she tries to tell them about what has happened to her. Their point blank refusal to believe her is heartbreaking.
Beate Teresa Hanika has dealt with this issue tastefully and the detail is never gratuitous or sensational. As you turn the pages you are desperate for Malvina to tell someone. Some of the passages towards the end of the novel are unbearably moving, particularly when Malvina finally tells Lizzy what she has endured. It is Mrs Bitschek, Screwy, Lizzy and her hippy Mum who finally help Malvina to ‘Learn to Scream’. As Wendy Cooling comments on the front cover Learning to Scream is ‘life-affirming and uplifting. Credit must go to the translator, Katy Derbyshire’s for an excellent translation from the German.