The Race is an incredibly inspirational and heart-warming dual narrative about racing, family and dedication which kept me completely engrossed throughout. A stunning and important story of perseverance, self-awareness and inclusion.
Twelve-year-old Lili is Chinese-British, having been adopted in China when she was 18 months old by her English/Scottish parents who have also adopted her sister, Alice from Kazakhstan. Lili has a keen interest in, and talent for, racing competitively; however, she is faced with racism and prejudice from Tom, a boy in her class who constantly undermines and belittles her Chinese heritage.
As part of her school’s anniversary celebrations, the Queen is coming to visit for Sports Day, but there will be no separate races for the boys and girls. Lili is determined to train hard and remain disciplined in order to show Tom that she is the better runner, but he is determined to do everything in his power to put her off her pace. Will she have the inner strength and determination to run the race of her life?
Their teacher gives the children a project to find out about the person who the Chinese consider to be their first gold medallist Olympian, Eric Liddell and it is his incredible story that we follow in the past as Lili’s story unfolds in the present. I must admit that I didn’t know anything about Eric Liddell whose 1924 Olympic success is portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire, but there is so much more to Liddell than his racing achievements. When he found himself caught up in the Second Sino-Japanese War and then the Second World War, he became separated from his family and faced life in a prison camp in China, helping the imprisoned children. His story is truly exceptional: a person of integrity who showed kindness and consideration for others in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.
I loved the connectedness across time between Eric and Lili, both of whose lives are thrown into chaos by events outside their control. Both show great resilience, strength and self-belief in the face of challenges. They both strongly believe in the importance of family, in looking out for others and in kindness. I found both Lili and Eric to be genuinely wonderful, inspirational people.
This is a remarkable and heartfelt story with history and fiction combined in such a brilliant and perfect way that I was completely swept into the narrative and found myself racing through it, and then stopping to take a breath as I focussed on these two incredible people, one an inspirational historical figure (who I am so glad to have found out more about) and the other, a young girl, written with such warmth and love that she captured my heart. An absolute winner!
Thank you to Antonia Wilkinson and Cranachan Publishing for providing me with an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.