Hina Belitz’s highly anticipated debut novel SET ME FREE, depicts the powerful relationship between a brother and a sister forced to flee their home in fear of their lives. We have an exclusive extract from a Q&A with Hina who discusses some of the themes within the book.
‘At the time of putting this book to press, much of the country was gripped by the domestic violence storyline on The Archers, and SET ME FREE explores this topic with incredible emotional intelligence from a teenage girl’s perspective. How did you go about researching this subject?
Part of my research was based on people I knew who had gone through such an experience, and it became clear that such relationships are highly complex and therefore incredibly interesting. Love appears to become confused with harsh and hateful behaviour to such an extent that the woman struggles to extract herself from the situation. And interestingly, even though Mani is a teenager when she is subjected to this treatment, from the research I did, it doesn’t make any difference if the woman is older and/or highly educated. I watched a TED talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner which explained the twisted justifications and confused outlook that victims of domestic violence develop. The book, Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood includes multiple accounts of women explaining why it was so hard for them to leave violent relationships. It seems that such women believe they are helping their partner become normal, that only they can fix whatever is making their partner so aggressive and violent. Often women subjected to such violence also believe they deserve the treatment they are getting. Finally, I was also intrigued by the controlling behaviour and hurtful language which accompany the physical violence. My goal was to depict life from the perspective of such a person by exploring Mani’s dilemmas and confusions in her marriage to Khan.
I met with Diana Nammi of the Iranian and Kurdish Woman’s Rights Organisation and spoke to her about the work she did to bring the murderers of Banaz Mahmod (her father and uncle in a so-called ‘honour killing’) to justice. This inspired another aspect of SET ME FREE which is the difficulty the authorities have in establishing how seriously to treat such acts of violence.’
If Hina has inspired you to read her novel, SET ME FREE is out today in paperback and eBook here