In “The Night Diary” by Veera Hiranandani, readers will get a chance to learn about a piece of history that is not often included in children’s books — the partition of India. In fact, this adult reader learned much about that historic event.
While many adults know that upon gaining independence from Great Britain, India was divided into India and Pakistan, one a Hindu country and the other Muslim, adults like me know little about the actual event and how smoothly (or not) the transition and partition went. It did not go well.
In hindsight, it might seem that dividing countries by religion is not a great idea. What happened to the many Muslims living in the part of India that was deemed Hindu? What happened to the part of India that was changed to Pakistan and where Hindus who lived there were no longer welcome?
And in “The Night Diary,” Hiranandani raises the question about a mixed marriage in which one parent is Hindu and one is Muslim. Where does such a family belong? In both places? Nowhere? The protagonist, Nisha, receives a diary for her 12th birthday. In it she writes letters to her deceased mother explaining what is happening to her family during this time. She documents life before the partition, and the dangers that have ensued since the partition took place.
There is violence and murder. People are killed because they are the wrong religion or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. People are killed for revenge — if one’s family was killed by a Muslim for being Hindu, or vice versa, then angry and suffering people wreaked violence on others — paying it forward in a disturbingly bloody manner.
Those who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy this book. While the letter format is a bit unnecessary, after a while the reader ignores the format to just learn about what is happening, and Nisha proves a fine storyteller.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.