[Book Review] The Singing Warrior
The Singing Warrior
Finding Happiness After a Past Filled With Pain
271pp, paperback, 15 euros
The Singing Warrior is the gripping life story of the newly published author Niamh Ni Bhroin, and what a debut it is. An Irish woman who moved to the Netherlands for love and settled down to life with a Dutch husband and daughter, Ni Bhroin has made this country her home for more than 20 years. But it is only within the last few years that she has faced down the demons of her past, resulting in this haunting book of triumph over childhood abuse and loss.
Ni Bhroin unflinchingly describes the distressing physical and psychological abuse she suffered as a young child at the hands of her Catholic school nuns. Her depictions of her rape as a young girl by the father of a childhood friend,of hers and later as a young woman by thugs while on holiday in Greece are similarly harrowing. She writes movingly of the continual absences of her beloved merchant mariner father and her conflicted relationship with her mother. The void left by her father's untimely death at sea has repercussions that echo throughout Ni Bhroin's entire family.
Yet, it is a testament to Ni Bhroin's honesty and talents as a writer that she also is able to candidly describe her inner thoughts and coping mechanisms at every step, and the ultimate will to survive.
Singing has always been in Ni Bhroins's blood, and throughout her life the songs in her head and those she committed to paper have helped her rise above the adversity and pain.
She explains: "I know now that this is my healing song. It is the song I have sought for all those years of cruelty and abuse. I had sung right from my babyhood into adulthood.
This song was a confirmation of all those songs. It was a tribute to having survived those events. I used it as a place in which to honour my pain. The song is engrained in my soul. It is my song..."
Ni Bhroin has a compelling way with words; she not only helps the reader to understand the horrific abuse she was subjected to as a child and young woman, but also to register the impact of that abuse on the psychic imprint of her life.
At turns agonising and uplifting, The Singing Warrior is always riveting. It grabs you from the the first words and holds you hostage until the last. And all the while you have the underlying reassurance that this woman has come out on the other side, stronger and having found her voice again. In a word, Ni Bhroin has prevailed.