We sprint for the ball, shoulder to shoulder, our backpacks thumping from side to side.
A story told in five parts, Sutcliffe’s novel paints an emotive picture of the personal and cultural pain that is created by war and segregation. Based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Wall follows the life of Joshua, an effortlessly moral boy who is unable to understand the restrictions placed on his life in Amarias, a fictional Israeli settlement next to the Wall.
The importance of justice and effect of prejudice is woven throughout Sutcliffe’s careful and considered novel as a young boy goes over the boundaries defining his reality in search of a lost football and instead finds a lost community. Sutcliffe takes the image of a tunnel as a portal into another world directly from fantasy, distancing the day-to-day life of Joshua and his family with those on the other side of the Wall. However, he reverts the usual reality into fantasy journey as Joshua travels away from the constructed and ‘picture perfect’ Amarias and into the gritty, hard world of those who have been controlled and oppressed.
The voice of Joshua is very measured, reflective of Sutcliffe’s own writing style perhaps, and almost too adult for his thirteen years. It’s not an accessible or chatty narrative and, because of this, it loses a sense of urgency and immediacy when the plot should command it. At times, it fails to emotively motivate the reader to turn the page but that may be in an attempt to portray political conflict from a reasonably neutral perspective, allowing the blame from both sides to be explored.
There is no denying the complexities of The Wall’s subject matter and despite Sutcliffe’s developed writing style, there are times when aspects of the novel are over-simplified and questions are left unanswered. With clear parallels drawn from real-life conflicts, we can fill in the gaps to some extent but I’m not sure how developed an understanding a typical YA reader will have in order to do this.
Sutcliffe’s The Wall is an accomplished piece of writing, drawing a convincing narrative within an impossible world, one that can and does exist but that we readers often barely have an understanding of.