In the interests of full disclosure, I will state upfront that I edited Yusuf Toropov’s Jihadi: A Love Story and cannot be classed as an objective reviewer. Nonetheless, I feel it was an immense honour to play a part in the development of a remarkable, beautifully written first novel, and I am glad to have the opportunity to tell readers about it, now that it has been published by the groundbreaking Orenda Books.
I first encountered Jihadi: A Love Story when I read an excerpt of an earlier draft that had reached the Quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I had been reviewing books a lot at the time and had begun to approach new titles with a feeling of weary trepidation that I am sure is familiar to many beleaguered reviewers in this ebook-inundated era.
Jihadi: A Love Story came as a hard jolt to my lassitude. It is not an easy story. It is, at times, complex and demanding. Some parts are harrowing. But two things grabbed me at that early stage: the quality of the writing, which is quite outstanding, and the intriguing setup. A US intelligence agent, accused of terrorism, is held in a secret prison. The decoding of his memoir is the starting point for a novel that has as its theme the very nature of truth and how it is perceived.
Since I read that first excerpt, the book has evolved, Yusuf Toropov’s prose becoming even stronger and his story, sadly, even more relevant. Our times have changed with the polishing of every sentence, and history’s terrible missteps, those of the last decade in particular, have borne toxic fruit, a reality that is echoed in the pages of this vital, powerful book.
Jihadi: A Love Story is out now as an ebook from Orenda Books and will be available in bookshops from February 2016.