Dirt Blog Tour

This is no utopia…

1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.

Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.

When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…

This book is one that I’ve been waiting for for a long time and I was delighted when it arrived for the blog tour. Sarah Sultoon has the background knowledge and experience to write so credibly about these matters that you absolutely forget that it’s fiction. She’s one of my favourite Orenda writers as she can immerse you so fully in her narratives that you feel like you’ve lived through these experiences with her characters. The way that Sultoon brings her characters so vividly to life – whether you are in the kibbutz alongside Lola or trying to make your mark in the cut and thrust of a busy and chaotic newsroom – ensures that once you start her books, it’s almost impossible to drag yourself away and back to the ‘real world’

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

You are whisked back in time to Israel in 1996, and see the kibbutz through Lola’s eyes and witness the way that the scales fall from her eyes as the longed-for escape turns into a more dangerous place than she imagined. Her unhappiness at home has led to this bid for freedom but this freedom comes with a price that’s far higher than her naivety could ever have considered. Jonny’s newsroom is also a place where tensions are emerging: he gets an unexpected tip-off that means that he’s plunged into an international situation that could potentially implode. His cub reporter role is transformed as a body is discovered and he’s caught up in the dangerous situation that emerges in the community…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What I always find one of the strongest aspects of Sarah’s writing is the way that she allows us to have credible insights into the way that different people see the same situation from their own unique perspectives. This juxtaposition – between the way that Lola experiences this situation compared with Jonny – was one of the things that I enjoyed most about this read and is actually one of the key things I enjoy about Orenda books – that their characters are never stereotypically what you might expect and you can’t always pigeonhole them and have a clear understanding of how they’ll behave or how their narrative will unfold. I love the way that their previous experiences gradually become more apparent to us and this builds our relationship with them and the way we experience their stories as the plot unfolds.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on Pexels.com

These two characters’ worlds collide when their story takes a turn for the darker side and we are reminded that the stories we see on the news every day are always an edited version. We are thrust into a world that lets us experience the depths that human beings will stoop to and we are given an insider’s perspective of the way that the stories we bring with us into a situation can often influence the outcome far more than we ever expect. This is a compelling and powerful read without a doubt, but it never feels invasive or insensitive as Sarah Sultoon takes pains to remind us that although this is a fictional narrative, there are many journalists, aid workers, and innocent civilians who don’t get the opportunity to close the page and walk away – we see the human impact of news headlines and this makes for an unputdownable read.

Photo by u0410u043bu0435u0441u044c u0423u0441u0446u0456u043du0430u045e on Pexels.com

Dirt is a gritty and realistic slice of fiction that will definitely win Sarah Sultoon a whole legion of new readers. I’m definitely including it in my Spring Reads column in 17 Degrees Magazine because I want to make sure that as many people as positive get the chance to enjoy it too. Orenda books are my favourites for a reason. It was hard at times to remember that these are fictional characters rather than real people whose lives are unfolding on the page and it made me wish that I was able to see these gripping events unfold on the screen. You are kept on your toes as a reader and not led by the nose when you are asked to think about the motives or people or the true version of events and that’s another thing I really love about Sarah’s writing – she trusts you as a reader and credits you with the intelligence to work your way to the answers rather than spoon feeding you. It makes for a richer and far more satisfying reading experience and I still can’t stop thinking about this story…

You will definitely find it hard to put this book down since you’ll be so wrapped up in this gripping and brilliantly plotted read – you’ll need to keep reading and find out how it all ends. I can’t emphasise enough that this is a tough and uncompromising read, but it never feels gratuitously shocking and you will at times find it hard to look away, even when it gets so much darker than you might have prepared yourself for. Needless to say, I’m really jealous of anyone who’s yet to start reading this book as it really stands out in a crowded field due to Sultoon’s own expertise and once you’ve read the first chapter you definitely won’t be able to put it down.

I recommend this tense and hard-hitting novel to people who really like to get their teeth into a story that feels 100% real from the start. I loved the characterisation as much as I enjoyed the cleverly constructed plot and I know that it’s going to be much talked about as it feels like one of those books that becomes a word-of-mouth hit – it really is that good! Buy yourself a copy here and if you haven’t read her other books, order yourself the full set!

Writer On The Shelf

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs.

 As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…