Source: Review copy
Publication 3rd September 2020 from HQ
My thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read this novel in advance of publication
ARE YOU READY TO START THIS CONVERSATION?
Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.
With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning…
Powerful, explosive and important, Truth Be Told is a contemporary courtroom drama that vividly captures today’s society. You will not stop thinking about it for a long time to come.
WOW! Kia Abdullah is a really powerful writer and I loved this book. I really like courtroom dramas anyway, but this one is something special. Zara Kaleel, a qualified solicitor, is now working as a women’s sexual violence counsellor following a difficult case which profoundly impacted her life – as narrated in Abdullah’s first book, Take It Back.
When Kamran Hadid comes to see her, she feels strongly that this 17 year old boy really needs her help. Despite the fact that she is working in a women only space, Zara takes leave of absence to help Kamran, who sought her out because she is Muslim.
Kamran is a bright young man, destined for the glittering spires of Oxford and thereafter to a substantial job, where he is expected to excel. His family are affluent. They live in a pristine house in Belsize Park and his mother is associated with many charitable works while his father, a real traditionalist likes women to know their place and enjoys the recreational slaughter of wild animals from time to time.
Kamran and his brother Adam (his parents are traditionalists but also aware of the status they want for their sons, so their names have been chosen to blend in) attend the same male only London Hampton boarding school, where the pupils all share that blend of money and power in their backgrounds. They’re the Tom Ford boxer-clad class.
Then one night, everything changes for Kamran when, after a party where he has drunk too much, he finds himself in a position he would not ever have contemplated.
When he decides to seek help from Zara, he sets his life on a course that is going to turn the world he lives in upside down.
With sensitivity and forensic skill, Abdullah sets out to show us how this confident, privileged young man is persuaded to go to the law and what happens to him thereafter. Around that, however, she examines the whole culture of toxic masculinity, how pervasive it is, how it is exploited by those with power and the devastating impact it can have on people’s lives.
By bringing Kamran’s family circumstances in, we can see where and how his values are formed and how those values are perpetuated by the school he attends and the classmates he mixes with. She explores the transgressive nature of sexual assault and the stigma of male rape and shows us its impact on everything Kamran does and on his family.
The school wants it dealt with internally – kept quiet, indeed. And Kamran will have to face a trial that will question the issue of consent.
Abdullah’s exploration of these issues is deep and impactful whilst being sensitive and carefully done. There’s a deal of compassion here alongside an absolutely riveting storyline that avoids the stereotypical approaches and considers, family, faith and upbringing.
Its an emotive and highly charged read which also shows us the impact of this trial on Zara, whose own history suggests that taking this case might not have been her wisest course of action.
Verdict: An intelligent, powerful, emotive and intense read that absolutely blew me away. Kia Abdullah’s writing is absolutely on point. I felt for all the well-drawn key characters and her careful de-layering of all the issues is skilfully done. There are shocks and surprises to keep the reader engaged on a visceral level at the same time as we marvel at the sheer power of the dissection of the impact of toxic masculinity on this family and Kamran in particular. A must read.
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC and Lonely Planet, and is the founding editor of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots, read by 250,000 people a month.