“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.
“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
“With Turkish forces invading northern Syria, the release of Sue 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
“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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
“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 intwined 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