Forbidden

Suzuma tackles the taboo subject of sibling incest in this credible and heartbreaking novel. The blurb reads: ‘She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen, gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But … they are brother and sister.’

I opened the book rather sceptically and was gradually drawn into their world. In a family where Dad has left years before and a wayward mother with a drink problem is not there for the kids, Lochan and Maya take on the roles of parenting their three younger siblings. Maya’s empathy for her brother’s communication difficulties and Lochan’s protectiveness towards his sister are credible in a family that has become unusually close as a result of their efforts to stay together. The siblings understanding of each other deepens and their love develops.

Their insights are at times too mature for their age but the reader suspends disbelief out of sympathy for their situation. Unless they can cover up their mother’s absence and stay together as a family, the younger siblings will be taken into care; but if their relationship is discovered Lochan could end up in prison. The relationship develops slowly and is convincing. It is sensitively written (with one quite graphic sex scene), and alternating chapters from the protagonists’ point of view lets the reader get inside their heads. Recommended for very mature readers.