Truth Be Told
Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
The description. I haven’t read a thriller/courtroom drama with a male rape victim before and I was interested to see how the author handled it.
Review copy or purchase
Thank you to the author, publishers HQ Stories and online book club Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read this book for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
Kamran Hadid’s view of the world changes forever when another pupil at his privileged all boys school climbs into bed with him one drunken night and has sex with him without Kamran’s consent. Former barrister turned assault counsellor Zara Kaleel tries to help Kamran work through how he feels about the assault, and supports him as he makes the difficult decision to pursue a criminal case against his rapist Finn. Despite the pressure from his uptight ‘appearances are all that matter’ parents, the school and wider society, Kamran believes that justice demands that Finn is held responsible for his actions.
A big thank you has to go to author Kia Abdullah for writing this book in the first place. The best fiction tackles big ideas, and makes the reader think, and this whole book has been one long (at times heated) discussion about the impact of family and society’s expectations. That it’s been packaged in an excellently written and gripping plot with sympathetic characters is a glittering bow on top.
The brilliance of this book is the way that opposing views are explored. From early on we see both Kamran and Finn’s perspectives. There is sympathy for both of them as we look at the event from both sides. The author also uses conversations with Zara’s friends and family to explore assumptions about differences between the rape of a man and the rape of a woman, and perspectives on homosexuality in a religion which is against it and a culture which doesn’t allow men to show any weakness. That Kamran is judged by those who know him, as well as by those who don’t, for not fighting back. Many of whom equate this with his sexuality – he must have wanted it really, he’s only crying rape because he thinks he’ll be ‘found out’. The realistic nature of this could be seen in some degree in the comments from fellow Pigeonhole readers. While none of the readers said that they they believed that Kamran being gay would change what had happened, a few did seem to take the view that Kamran’s sexuality was confused all along, and not just by his own questioning of why in a drunken and sleep-befuddled state he didn’t explicitly say no and didn’t fight Finn off.
The issue of consent was also hotly debated of course, and it was great to see so many readers also referencing the excellent tea and consent video.
All the characters retain a sense of realism. None of them are perfect, although some of them seem to think they are. Many of the characters we meet think and talk in absolutes, making statements like – men can always fight back against their attackers, women are always weaker than men, or even that there’s no such thing as a gay Muslim. That last one can be summed up as, can you follow a religion that denies your right to be who you are, and can apply to a lot of religions. Even when the author uses her characters to challenge these assumptions, it’s not in a patronising way. Truth Be Told has a thorough understanding that there are a lot of shades of grey in everyday lives.
An excellent, excellent book.