The Closest Thing to Flying

Wow! This is such a powerful story, told through the eyes of two brave girls, Semira and Hen. Semira is a refugee, living in London, who feels trapped, helpless and alone. When buying an old hat, she finds ‘The Feather Diaries’, the diary of a young Victorian girl. Her incredible connection to Hen becomes the catalyst for the changes that Semira is brave, and strong, enough to make in her own life.

Hen is surrounded by some remarkable woman, especially her Aunt Kitty, who is brave, fierce and determined enough to go against the norms of society. Her story is both heart-breaking and uplifting, and, I must admit, led to that ‘lump in throat, eye-watering’ moment when I know the story has ‘got’ me.

As Semira develops her friendship with Hen, so too she bonds with Patrick, Chloe and Holly, who all take her under their wings, although, in the end, it is Semira who frees them. There are lot of powerful messages in this story: having the courage to stand up for, and to, others; the choice to make a positive difference to the lives of others; and, the pivotal importance of dreams, living life and not being trapped by it.

The birds are a metaphor for the journey for both girls of entrapment to freedom. In their shared love of cycling, they experience ‘The Closest Thing to Flying’, both finding their inner strength and escaping their respective ‘cages’. This book really was an emotional rollercoaster, but one I felt very privileged to ride.

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