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‘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)
And What About Anna?
by Jan Simoen
Age Range: 14+
Set in Belgium and the war-torn Balkans, sixteen-year-old Anna Bracke’s life is turned upside-down when a letter arrives from Rivinji (in what was once Yugoslavia) from Hugo Vadamme, a family friend.
The day had begun like any other day, only fifteen minutes earlier – a day full of omens that makes Anna feel her life will never be normal again. When Anna was eleven her brother Jonas dies of AIDS, three and a half years later her half brother Michael and his wife Marta were presumed dead from a land-mine accident in Bosnia. This unresolved grief has precipitated her parents’ separation but Anna has learnt to cope and believes she has put the past behind her. With the arrival of Hugo’s letter marked in red felt tip pen – which means ‘don’t tell anyone’! – the past is back with a vengence when he hints that her older brother, Michael may still be alive.
Anna travels to meet Hugo, now a music promoter, at a music festival in Ostend. On her journey she meets Daniel Devolder, the strange, elderly man on the train who turns out to play an important part in the past of her family.
This is a gripping story that explores the complex emotions and relationships within a family as they each deal with their loss over the years and it leads to a whole new awakening for Anna as she struggles to come to terms with the past. This book won the Belgium Youth Jury Award in 2001.