by Sameem Ali
John Murray, HK$205
'I was abused and forced to marry; I was pregnant at thirteen; when I escaped my brother tried to kidnap me ...' Gracing the cover of Belonging, that quotation, by author Sameem Ali, is supposed to attract readers, but it would not be surprising if it has the opposite effect. Reasons abound: there have been too many misery memoirs published for them to have the impact they should; some have turned out to be fiction and some themes within the genre have become passe. Unfortunately child abuse is one of them, which is why this book - about a girl beaten regularly by her mother and sent to Pakistan to marry a man who saw her as a visa ticket to Britain - isn't among those a reader will automatically pick. Now a councillor in Manchester, Ali wrote the book to raise awareness about child abuse in general and forced marriage in particular. The low points of her story include being treated as the family slave in Walsall and Glasgow and having her razor-wielding mother cut the membrane beneath her tongue because she stuttered. There is also what is described on the cover but, thankfully, happiness after she fled the violence at home. Fans of the genre will give Belonging the thumbs up. Others will be relieved it is a quick read.