The Book Collectors of Daraya – Delphine Minoui

Suzie Eisfelder

Thanks to Pan MacMillan for sending me this book and feeding my addiction for books and book collections.

My copy of this book is the translation. Minoui is a French journalist. She did what I often do and she wondered about a photo she saw online. Then she did what I never do and contacted the photographer for more information. What followed was the story of people’s lives as they survived through war in Syria. It is an amazing book, it shows the power of books and how they can both make a difference and also change people’s lives.

The setting is the ancient city of Damascus. A city settled long before Christianity began, it has a rich history, full of importance. I’ve even found mentions of it in The Torah, an ancient text that is still read today in synagogues. It might also be mentioned in the Quran but I’ve not managed to find those. Civil wars are hell for everyone involved, soldiers, rebels, bystanders…everyone. In 2012, Daraya, a suburb of Damascus held some rebels. They were fighting back with everything they had. Their families escaped the area but they stayed and continued fighting. During their fight they found some books and started a library in a safe place. Thanks to that library they educated themselves and each other, reading books from all over the world including self-help books.

This book is their story. It is heartwarming and makes me feel totally undereducated. This book gives me a different insight to war, one I’ve never seen before. It shows me how the authorities can tap away at a person’s resolution. It also shows me how resilient people can be. We see their story partly through their eyes but also through the eyes of Minoui. She is desperate to help and all she can do is to get their story out, make sure people in the outside world understand what is happening. She uses all possible technology to talk to these forty people, time and time again.

It is an amazing book, one I struggled to put down for fear of losing my thread. If I’ve made you want to read this book then you can run at speed of your technology to this link to buy it right now. Your local bookshop might also have it in stock. Or even your local library. Just be sure to get this title, there is another book about the library in Daraya, one day I’ll read that too.

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