Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield

Caroline Overington is known for her hard hitting fiction, shining the spotlight on the most harrowing of circumstances. Overingtonís grasp of hot topics have echoes of truth that are truly terrible. In No Place Like Home she looks at the treatment of refugees, the prejudices, and the morality and ethics that come to the surface when individuals are thrown together in a desperate situation.

The book opens as a police chaplain receives a call about a siege currently underway in a shopping centre in Bondi. He heads to Bondi immediately to provide the police with support. On arrival he finds a hostage situation with a young man holding four hostages. The young man has yet to speak, but appears to have a bomb around his neck.

The police clear the shopping centre and lock the door to the lingerie shop which holds the hostages. No one can go in and no one can come out. The diverse group of hostages are thrown together in tense and distressing circumstances.

Mouse is a fun loving sales assistant, who achieved her moniker by wearing store pyjamas through the day coupled with fancy ears on her head to sell her wares. Roger, a real estate salesman full of his own self interest, is her first customer of the day. He has just flown in from Melbourne to visit his mistress. Today he is in Mouseís shop to purchase lingerie for his bit on the side.

Mitchell and Kimmi end up inside the lingerie shop quite by accident. Mitchell is a twelve year old school boy, currently on a scholarship at a private Sydney school. His mother cleans to support him and his sister Eloise. Mitchell is in Bondi to source a second hand video game he had been told was sitting on one of the cut price tables.

Kimmi spends most of the time inside the shop being comforted by Mitchell, silent, with her head in her hands. She works at the nail salon in the shopping centre. Originally from Vietnam, she currently lives with her uncle in the western suburbs.

All four hostages are at the mercy of Ali Khan, an Australian citizen, originally from Tanzania. He is a young man with a disturbing appearance exacerbated by the fact that he has a bomb strapped around his neck. An albino Africa, his unusual skin tone scares even his fellow Africans, many of whom think he is cursed. Once in Australia, Ali became lost in a system unsure where to place him. He went from detention centres to shared homes which is where he finally ended up before the fateful day in Bondi.

Overington looks at the way the hostages deal with their situation and the publicís perception of what went on, both at the time and after the siege is over. With years of experience as a journalist, Overington is able to highlight the manipulation of the media, and the way the public drink up everything they are told.

No Place Like Home is thought provoking and unpredictable. It is a gripping thriller to be devoured at speed.

Caroline Overington will be our guest on CS Live on Friday November 1 at 1pm.

 

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