Book Reviews

“Where the Sun Rises is an ambitious, compassionate and powerful novel. Sensory memories accessed through scents and tastes are used brilliantly to evoke the physical strain, tenderness and revulsion of war for female soldiers in the fight against ISIS. Their story deserves a far wider readership and Strong’s achievement lies in her ability to take us into their dangerous world.”

Dr Toby Davidson, Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney.

“Strong has taken care to accurately present the reality of the lives of Kurdish women and the dramatic choices they make as fighters defending their land. The story is remarkable for the authenticity of the detailed portrayal of the geography, the intimate lives of the women fighters and the ferocity of the killing in which they are involved…Strong makes good use of the senses to convey the sounds and smells of battle and death and contrasts it with the delights of singing and dancing, the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste of goat’s cheese. The extraordinary amount of research undertaken pays dividends. Recollections of peaceful days and olive groves are neatly woven into the narrative, as are the reassuring pots of tea.

Powerful and credible, Where the Sun Rises is an eye-opener to a story we rarely hear.”

Dr. Lynne Spender, UTS Lecturer, Sydney. 

Where the Sun Rises is a novel told from alternating viewpoints of two childhood friends: Karin and Roza. The story begins in 2014 when the Islamic State, ISIS, or Daesh, as some choose to call them in protest, begin to invade the city of Kobane, in the Kurdish region of Syria. It’s a heartwrenching story of two women who give up everything to protect their families and the land that they love. Both Karin and Roza individually join the YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit) of the YPG, the Kurdish people’s militia to fight against ISIS. They reunite at a training camp for the YPJ.

Both women face heartbreaking losses and choose to fight for the YPJ out of fierce love for their families and the place they call home. Karin is studying to be a doctor, and Roza is a former English teacher and mother to a six-year-old. This novel traces the journey two highly educated young women take to become tough, skillful militia fighters. It also provides insight into how the women fighters are trained and how they are as fierce fighters as the men.

The civil war in Syria has many facets, and Where the Sun Rises opens a door to the perspective of the Kurdish people living in Syria. Reading it helped me realize how little I know about Kurdistan, Syria, and the geopolitics of the region. Although Karin and Roza’s story is fictional, I can easily imagine how many real-life women have similar stories. Karin and Roza’s courage will catch you and make you wonder at their ability to persevere. They are ordinary women who respond to extraordinary circumstances.

I cried throughout this story, and what I took from the ending was that we all have the ability to fight for what we love when the situation demands it, though the cost we pay is very high.”

Manhattan Book Review, 2020

Remarkable book that provides Invaluable insights into this sad and brutal war.

“Every day when I watch the news, I see images of the war-torn struggles of Kurdish people as a collective group. What Suzanne Strong’s powerful book Where the Sun Rises has managed to do is remarkable: she helped me get to know, care for and identify with those involved with the war on a more personal level. The main characters are women I would like to befriend and could not stop thinking about even after I finished reading the book.

Through Ms. Strong’s detailed writing, the reader vividly experiences the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of those regions. We learn about the political and religious conflicts that motivate an amazing group of women and the horrendous obstacles they must fight just to get bare human necessities: food, shelter, love and freedom. This novel is crucial reading for our modern world since the fighting in these regions continues. The compassionate insights apply not only to the sad and brutal stories of these Kurdish regions and their people but extends to basically all war ravished communities throughout history.

Where the Sun Rises is a classic worth reading in the canons of other great works depicting the horrors of war as well as strength of the human spirit, such as Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War. “

Arie David – 5 out of 5 Stars

“Freedom crowns the heads of the free but only slaves know it’s value. In our society, being a wife or a daughter means you are not a person in your own right…”

This novel is much more than a story about war. Though the war against Isis provides the motivation of the action; this is primarily an intimate tale of two best friends who yearn for peace and equality and are prepared to sacrifice all they have to achieve it.

Sometimes we can switch off emotionally from the endless news cycle of wars in distant lands such as the fight against Isis in Syria. It seems so far away and our lives seem so different. The beauty of this novel is in its rich exploration of the characters of Roza and Karin. We come to know them and their rich culture and to recognise parts of them in us. Their story is told with compassion, feminine understanding and gentle humour.

Suzanne Strong’s skill and thorough research takes you deep into the lives and struggles of these Kurdish women in a memorable, compelling and emotionally touching read.

Heather Preston – 5 out of 5 Stars

“She stopped and fired her AK47. Karin had also stopped. and began to fire as well. The girls ran past them, screaming. Tanah hurriedly ushered them inside the building. Three Daesh men fell onto the street dead, and Roza felt something slam into her arm. Wetness and shock filled her. Karin supported Roza across the street towards the door and into the passageway. Roza was bleeding from a deep wound to her arm, but there was no time to stop.”

Suzanne’s gripping war novel, “Where the Sun Rises”, is a fantastic read. It’s based on the true story of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) defeating Daesh (ISIL) in Kobane, the Syrian town near the border of Turkey, in 2014/15. A celebration of the power of unity and determination in the face of evil.

If you like a good war story, this is one of the best!!

Mark CooperGood Reads Reader 5 out of 5 Stars

An immersive experience in this captivating tale of friendship

“From the first paragraph of Where The Sun Rises the reader is drawn into the world of Karin, a young Kurdish medical student forced through circumstances and her own belief in justice to join the war against Daesh/ISIS. We also meet Roza, a teacher and young mother, representing a more passive demographic. How will each react to the horrors of war?

The very human side of armed conflict, as depicted, begs us as readers to consider how we would react under similar conditions. Would we be among those who choose to flee across the border, to what might be safety? Would we defiantly stay in our homes despite the odds? Or would we act by taking up arms and getting involved in beating back the aggressors?

Suzanne Strong’s meticulous research pays off, as she seamlessly presents a credible, realistic, immersive experience forming a colourful background to this captivating tale of friendship. Through her richly textured descriptions, we experience the day-to-day circumstances of those living through war.

It is only through their darkest days and their camaraderie (with each other and their sisters-in-arms) that the young women get to know themselves and what they are capable of, but the real power of this book lies in how it affects the reader. The questions it raises and the gratitude for being spared the choices demanded by war, will continue to haunt this reader.

It is our agency and integrity that will carry us through dark times and the young heroines of Where The Sun Rises stand tall in testament. It is an anthem for female camaraderie and friendship, while recognising their love and respect for the men in their lives. The author manages to breathe life into and foster empathy even for minor characters, both male and female.

A surprisingly uplifting read, despite its serious setting, I recommend Where The Sun Rises as a must-read for anyone paying attention to the raging conflicts of our era and concerned about where we are heading in reaction.”

Amazon Customer – 5 out of 5 stars

Oct 27, 2020

Heart-wrenching story about a town in the midst of war

Where The Sun Rises, by Suzanne Strong, tells the heart-wrenching story of a town ravaged by war. People are dying, buildings are blown up. From one minute to the next, one wonders whether their home or even worse be taken from them.

It paints a vivid picture of what living in a town driven by war looks like and how difficult life must be. Karin and Roza, or Kar and Rozi, as they are affectionately called grew up together. Both families now live in the dangerous town of Kobane. As the Daesh (AKA ISIS) advance rapidly towards the city of Kobane and it’s inhabitants, difficult choices have to be made. Should they join the fight? Should they stay and protect what they have left?

Due to circumstances they both experienced, Karin and Roza decide to join the YPG and fight in the battle for their hometown. The YPG is growing in numbers with more women fighting for their town and their freedom and it feels like their duty to join these women. Not only is it their responsibility it is their right. Karin and Roza, as well as some other friends, deal with too much in this journey.

Where The Sun Rises in this reader’s opinion, is a wonderfully told story of life and loss. This book played with my emotions more than once. I am left realizing how strong and brave these women are to fight for what they love and for what they believe in. If you enjoy stories of courage and perseverance, you will like this book.

Andrea LaBarge 

Amazon Customer 5.0 out of 5 stars  and Goodreads

Great Read

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2020

“Suzanne Strong has written a very powerful book that will tug at your heart. This is a story about the brave women who fought against the Daesh to save their town. An eye-opener and a tearjerker to the way they sacrificed themselves for their comrades. This is a book that you won’t want to put down until you finish it.”

Kindle Customer5.0 out of 5 stars 

Gritty and true to life

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 September 2020

“A very powerful story and I read it in one go as I found it difficult to put down. The author brings the characters to life in such a descriptive way that you feel you are there along side them. If you want a true to life book then this is a must and I urge everyone to read it. It was a real eye opener.”

5.0 out of 5 stars  Jennifer Aish

It was amazing.

“‘Where the Sun Rises’ was difficult to put down. It’s a gripping read, amazingly researched and written with great sensitivity. I highly recommend as a narrative on a difficult but vitally important topic.”

Marilyn Cowling  5 out of 5 Stars

Where The Heart Is

“This is a one-of-a-kind, fantastically ambitious novel. I’d never considered the realities of women in war, let alone their personal, emotional and familial stories. Suzanne Strong has provided us with dramatic insight into this, with the grim reality of war counterpointed with sensual tastes and textures for relief and cultural flavour – a backdrop to these women’s hellish predicament.

What does it mean to fight against an enemy when you don’t have a recognised homeland? A remarkable and necessary tale of women’s friendship in war, and the Kurdish struggle for a safe place called ‘home’.”

Claire Doyle 5.0 out of 5 stars

A story of devastating loss and ultimate triumph

This is a war story unlike any I’ve read. Thoroughly researched with easy to read prose, I was initially intrigued by a story about female soldiers: what makes vibrant young women risk everything by taking up arms and leaving families already decimated by war? As each woman is drawn into the conflict we learn more about them: their culture, their land, their history and yes, why they take up arms. While we learn about how they train and fight, this was not the highlight for me.

With each new chapter I was drawn deeper into the lives of these truly courageous women bravely confronting the horrors of ISIS. Together they suffer devastating losses but also experience the deepest love of friendship, sisterhood and sacrifice. The story builds to a tragic climax of seemingly senseless loss that will bring tears to many readers (as it did for me). But the final chapters show us the results of all they suffered, made all the more poignant by the historical truth it’s based on. My life is richer having read this novel. Definitely recommend it

Amazon Customer 4.0 out of 5 stars

Where the Sun Rises: A story of feminine courage and friendship

“With Turkish forces invading northern Syria, the release of Strong’s new novel Where The Sun Rises offers a timely and necessary insight into the conflicts of this region.

The focus in Strong’s novel is the village of Kobane, a Syrian town within walking distance of the southern Turkish border. In contemporary times – late 2019 – forces backed by Turkey are amassing to drive out the Kurds, but back in 2014-15, when the novel is set, the Kurds are pushing back against Daesh, an Islamic terrorist group. Although the conflicts are not identical, there are correspondences in what it means to be Kurdish against oppressive forces driven by religious imperatives.

We enter the story when Daesh are advancing towards Kobane. Karin, who is a medical student, is estranged from her fiancé, and is in the final stages of completing her medical degree. In a story that runs parallel to this, we are introduced to Roza, married mother of one, and teacher of English at a local school. It is soon evident the woman who are the focus of these alternating chapters have been strong allies in childhood. A decade later they still remain friends, despite their diverging paths. When Karin’s brother, Mani, announces he’s off to join the war against Daesh, she laments that he lacks the imposing physique of a soldier.

“His shoulders seemed smaller and bonier than before, vulnerable somehow. She wanted him to be large and bulky, and felt a terrible dread of wanting to protect him but knowing she couldn’t.” Mani leaves for the war and when he doesn’t make it through, Karin decides to stand in place and fight in his honour. There is a female militia group she already knows about, and now she treks off to enlist. On her journey there she reflects on the irony of her decision: her life won’t be dedicated to saving lives – as it would have been in her medical career – but instead will be dedicated to taking lives away. We forgive Karin’s decision because it is clear she has so few choices. The border into Turkey is closed, the war puts a stop to her degree, and her family’s lives are endangered. Good people defend their territory even if it costs them their lives.

Roza wrestles with a similarly difficult decision. She has seen her husband go off to war and the school where she teaches is emptied of students. When she learns her husband has been killed, she struggles to be an effective parent for little Yez. Overcome with grief, she believes the best course of action is to take arms against her pain, and fight to obliterate the loss of her husband. Leaving Yez with relatives, she, too, joins the female militia. Roza and Karin meet at the military training camp and are grateful each has the other for this next harrowing chapter of their lives. The experience of war brings Roza and Karin closer together, but ultimately the friendship implodes in a defining incident which is both harrowing and emotionally powerful.

Despite the central focus being war, there are keen moments of levity. In the midst of crossfire, we duck into a local bakery – still operating throughout the conflict. Tension is ratcheted down when characters cut loose with singing, dancing and the tembur. There is even an intervention from a gaggle of ducks.

“ “Chh, chh, chh,” Roza said to the ducks, getting them to move along, and guiding them into the nearest yard, relieved they didn’t have any young with them.”

It stands as a testament to Strong’s writing that while she has no direct experience of war, readers still feel immersed in an authentic experience. Take Strong’s description of Roza’s first experience killing Daesh:

“It was strange to see a connection between her fingers, some wood, metal, and powder, and taking a man’s life. Instantly she felt sick, an emptiness she had never experienced seemed to open up inside like a cavernous ravine, as she watched his deep thick blood oozing into the dirt.”

Key scenes are rendered in simple but powerful prose.

“Your daddy became a martyr today,” she told him. “He gave his life for us.” She could barely say the words; they seemed hollow. They embraced in the dirt of the street. …It was as if they were the only people in the world.”

If you are curious about how women are inculcated into army life, if you are engaged with feminist empowerment stories, or if you enjoy learning about new cultures through a touchstone like war, I strongly recommend this novel. The story also serves as a sobering reminder of how fortunate most of us are not to be embroiled in conflicts so persistent and harrowing. Highly recommended.”

Alison Quigley 5 out of 5 Stars

A Timely and Important Read

“If you like inspiring stories about strong women, friendship, and family, this book is for you. And if you are less than expert in Kurdish history, Where the Sun Rises will open your eyes and heart. I recommend it!”

Always reading – 5 out of 5 Stars

A beautifully written, emotive novel; behold the fierce sisterhood rejecting tyranny.

Suzanne Strong’s affecting novel induced me to shed tears, swept me up in the moment as though I was, indeed, on the ground in Kurdish Syria, and had me on tenterhooks throughout.

I had the pleasure of reading ‘Where the Sun Rises’ over the New Year. On more than one occasion, I found myself with goose bumps and hairs upstanding – unable to put this book down for fear of missing what happens next.

I would highly recommend! Five stars!

Kathryn Le Gay Brereton 5.0 out of 5 stars

This book has it all!

“A wonderful story that pulls at your heart strings while reminding you how strong and determined women can be. The author puts you right in the middle of their dilemmas, their joys and sorrows while beautifully weaving in the culture of the land. I very much enjoyed this book!”

Amazon Customer – 5.0 out of 5 stars

A powerful story of the courage of women

“I really loved Where The Sun Rises. It broke my heart in more than one place, but it really gave me a look inside the ongoing courage of the Kurdish women and their remarkable bravery and camaraderie in the face of a horrific enemy. After a terrific and heroic struggle, the story ends on a note of hope and promise for the future. The story of these remarkable women should be shared widely with the world for the sake of both those who were lost and for those who carry on.”

Jessica Ciosek5.0 out of 5 stars

“Having just read Where the Sun Rises by Suzanne Strong I am very impressed that it’s been launched when Turkey just evicted the Kurdish people – this is SO the book. Female fearless fighters – standing up for what they believe. So well written it feels you are really there. Recommend it highly. “

Sue – 5 out of 5 Stars

Quite a story!

“Quite a story. I was challenged to read the book as I normally can’t handle the brutality and inhumanity of any armed conflict and would avoid such harrowing tales. But…. I did feel the bravery and humanity that you conveyed in the story through all the strong female characters. This helped me through. I actually felt the bravery of the author  (exactly like the main characters) in taking on the challenge to write on such a foreign subject to most Australians. I was pretty ignorant of the plight of people in that region.”

Gary Stein

“Loved this book. It took me to a place I will never be, amongst people I will never meet, but stories about this part of world often come up in the news. Until now it has been very easy to disconnect from the horror stories coming from these places. Now that I feel I have been there along side these remarkable women I will certainly connect on a higher level to the problems in this part of the world. Ms Strong has a very detailed style of writing which makes it easy to be totally immersed in the lives of the characters. Would highly recommend this read. “

Nell Taig  – 5 out of 5 Stars

“A great account of what the Kurdish women and men achieved against a vile enemy. Not just a book about conflict but the conflicts that these women faced. A book that well documented the human struggles of all wars. I highly recommend it to all modern history buffs.”

Angus McGeachie

“Well researched, moving story of women fighting for their country and rights.”

Mary Kathleen – 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

A Great Read

“Suzanne Strong has written a very powerful book that will tug at your heart. This is a story about the brave women who fought against the Daesh to save their town. An Eye-opener and a tearjerker to the way they sacrificed themselves for their comrades. This is a book that you won’t want to put down until you finish it.”

Maggie Long – 5 out of 5 Stars

Where the Sun Rises is a novel that shows a largely untold story. The story of Kurdish women who fought ISIS in Syria in 2014. It was an extremely personal story, that showed the reality of war from the point of view of two best friends. The dilemmas, the pain, the humour, and life, are all entwined in this story. It was an intimate tale of loyalty, bravery and strength and how these women were achieving amazing victories against Daesh. I loved it. I bonded with the two main characters and enjoyed seeing this war from their point of view, including the minor characters. I would definitely recommend this book, to experience a largely unknown reality, but also for a story based on real women who did extraordinary things and who risked everything for it.”

Leah – 5 out of 5 Stars

Unique & gritty

“A wonderfully unique read, highlighting the horrors of war while exploring the relationships between women determined to fight and protect their region. At times harrowing and heart-wrenching but also filled with hope. Well worth a read.”

Dawn Brookes 5.0 out of 5 stars 

“Meticulously researched, particularly relevant and necessary today, this harrowing story conveys the plight of the Kurdish female soldiers through the eyes of Karin in her frontline battle against ISIS for homeland, liberation and equality.
Highly descriptive and evocative, Strong gives a detailed insight into Kurdish family life as well as the horrors of war. But its power lies in the strength of its women… Their will to rise up, their desire for freedom and their connection as fellow sisters and friends….. It has moments that strengthen us all.”

Angela Nicholas 

Strong Women Admirable

“If you like stories about strong women, then this book is amazing. This is about women who must step up to protect their families, to face the horror of war to bring peace to their community.”

Amazon Customer 5.0 out of 5 stars 

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