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Robin de Crespigny's The People Smuggler

At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this book The People Smuggler is one man's epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.

When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein's torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring.

Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune – even romance and heartbreak – Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.

With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protections of civilisation, attempting to retain his dignity and humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position.

'An astonishing story...' Sebastian Faulks, Favourite Book of the Year 2013, New York Times Book Reviews

'The adventures make Les Miserables look like plain sailing. Unforgettable.' Sebastian Faulks, Favourite Book of the Year 2013, The Guardian

'Just finished the most extraordinary book. It has opened my eyes in a life-changing way ... The People Smuggler, by Robin de Crespigny. Never before have I read such a personable, heart-wrenching account of an asylum seeker and the horrors of what they've had to endure.' Missy Higgins

'A totally riveting story about a brave and honourable man. Passionate, vivid and true, it bounces off the page.' Rosie Scott

'A must-read ... it's an illuminating tale in the context of the asylum seeker debate. A thriller and an inspirational story.' Paul Morgan, Australian Book Review

'While giving us the details of Ali Jenabi's plight, the dramatic narrative holds strong ... Compelling.' Dianne Dempsey, The Age

'This is a story that had to be told.' The Weekend Australian

'An engrossing account of a man seen by some as a saviour and others as a criminal. A significant book.' Thomas Keneally

'This is a story every Australian should read ... a complex mixture of love of family and a hard-edged determination to survive in a brutal, unforgiving world.' Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

'An epic story full of dramatic reversals and cinematic cliff-hangers ... Ali emerges as an unlikely but true blue hero: resilent, loyal to his mates and protective of those weaker than himself, canny, resourceful, unafraid of sacrifice, a man of honour ...' Jose Borghino, The Australian
'His story ... is just mind-blowing. This moving saga of endurance and bravery could well compel a stone to cry.' The Australian Way (Qantas Magazine)

'It's gripping, thrilling, humorous and epic. This book is compulsive reading and a story of our times.' Helen Crompton, The West Australian

'A must-read ... It's an illuminating tale in the context of the asylum-seeker debate ... a thriller and an inspirational story.’ 
Jane Sullivan, The Saturday Age

'Tight, powerful and extraordinarily well-written ... It is a book which glories in the strength, courage and compassion of the human spirit.' Bruce Haigh, The Canberra Times

'One of the most immensely readable and most deeply thought-provoking books ... a reminder of the power of literature to capture stories that not only change the world but also change the way we think.' Byron Shire Echo 

'A remarkable tale of one man's odyssey.' The Sunday Mail

'Aptly described as a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze is thus a considered, timely and insightful account of one man's incredible experience.' Michael Jacobsen, Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

'The story of Ali is one of extraordinary courage which contrasts the human capacity for brutality and cruelty with that of compassion and genuine kindness.' Toowoomba Chronicle

'An amazing book. It reads like an adventure story, telling the harrowing and heartbreaking story of Ali's journey ...' Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Volume 24, Number 2

'Ali's story is absolutely riveting ... read it and be angry. And then maybe write a letter to your MP.' Grant Hansen, Good Reading

'A gripping account of one man's determination to free himself, his family and his people ... a fascinating insider's perspective of the underbelly of a global crisis.' Instyle

'It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man ... attempting to retain his dignity and humanity.' Mid-West Times

'An incredible tale ... utterly gripping and fascinating.' Yen

'Throughout this important book, Ali emerges as an important hero ... It's also a book that reveals the strength of the human spirit.' The Week

'Sometimes, it seems the unlucky just fell to earth ... nothing to define them as human beings ... The People Smuggler changed that for me'. Gail Forrer, Noosa News

'This book should be compulsory reading to those concerned about asylum seekers, which seems to be a great many of us.' Pittwater Life

'With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands.' Imagine

'The People Smuggler is a fabulous, must-read book.' Fiona Crawford, Boomerang

'The People Smuggler is a rollercoaster, with characters and a story that will stay with you long after you've read it.' Erica Bartle, Girl With a Satchel

'[An] engrossing story ... it will open a country's eyes to what refugees are fleeing from.' Good Reads 

'It is a tribute to the quality of the writing that the book raises political questions about refugees without breaking the stride of the very personal story it tells.' Chris Breen, Refugee Action Collective, Victoria

‘This wonderfully written book projects Ali’s brave and authentic voice in a way that is captivating and compelling.'
Mark Goudkamp,

'The book had me turning page after page waiting for a lull, so I could put it down and go to sleep, but none came.' Tarla's Blog, AWA

Published by Penguin Books Australia



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The People Smuggler was the highest selling Australian book in the 2012 Sydney Writers' Festival and has won:

Queensland Literary Award 2012

25th Human Rights Award for Literature

2012 Alex Buzo Prize for Research and Literature 2012

The Ned Kelly Award for Best Non-Fiction 2013


It was short-listed for:

The Walkley Book Award 2012

Australian Book Industry Award: General Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2013

Australian Book Industry Award: Newcomer of the Year 2013


It was long-listed for:

Stella Award 2012


Get the book the critics are raving about!

Robin at the Human Rights Awards with advocates (from left) Sister Aileen Crowe, Ngareta Rossell, John Highfield, Adam Worling, Rosie Scott, and Stephen Blanks