Rating: 4 / 5
Actor-turned-writer Judy Nunn‘s latest novel Sanctuary follows the journey of shipwrecked refugees as they are washed up on an isolated Australian island. They discover vacant huts, which belong to fishermen who only use them during the fishing season.
This seasonal isolation allows nine people from volatile Middle Eastern countries to take refuge and recover from their ordeals. They are discovered by a retired fisherman and his grandson, who take a sympathetic view and vow to help the refugees by keeping them undisturbed for as long as possible.
When their existence becomes known, reactions are varied. Many hut owners show compassion, although they have to deal with a hostile reaction at a public meeting in the town. This tests their capacity for welcoming and protecting these new arrivals, but their determination wins out.
Sanctuary is described as a novel in which “compassion meets bigotry, hatred meets love, and ultimately despair meets hope on the windswept shores of Australia”.
Nunn likes to have a moral core to her books, and in this case it’s about ordinary people demonstrating humanity to those who need it.
“I would say this book is about the human spirit; the will to survive under horrendous circumstances and the spirit of those who put themselves at risk to help others in peril. In other words, it’s about humanity,” Nunn says.
“Sanctuary tells the story of nine refugees fleeing from war-torn countries. They’re of differing nationality, culture and religion, and they’re strangers to each other when they board a boat in Indonesia. However, when the vessel founders in a storm and these nine are the only survivors they are forced to bond in order to survive.”
Nunn’s plot has plenty of twists and turns. She shines a sympathetic light into the minds of people who have suffered, and shows the best and worst of human nature.
Take Sanctuary on a summer break; it’s a terrific read that’s impossible to put down.