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Ealing journalist's book about migrant rescue mission finishes 2016 as Book of the Year nominee

Emma Jane Kirby's book, The Optician of Lampedusa, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

(Left) Rosaria Menna with (centre) Emma Jane Kirby and (right) Carmine Menna

A book written by a BBC reporter in Ealing about an optician rescuing migrants was shortlisted for book of the years.

Emma Jane Kirby's book, The Optician of Lampedusa, was nominated by Waterstones for Book of the Year 2016 - although it missed out on first place to Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent.

The story tells of the spontaneous rescue mission led by optician Carmine Menna, who went sailing with his wife and six friends on his boat in October 2013.

In a previous interview with the journalist for BBC Radio 4, he recalled sailing off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in Italy.

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But the day turned into a rescue mission when Mr Menna spotted hundreds of refugees in the water, saving 47 on a boat with a capacity of 10 and just one rubber ring.

(Left) Carmine Menna with one of the refugees he saved

She said: "They (listeners) had seen so many pictures of upturned boats that compassions could peak. (I thought) How can we pull readers back in focus again.

"So we decided to do a series interviewing ordinary Italians who had been affected.

"There was Carmine Menna. He took a boat out with some friends and the following morning he heard what he thought were seagulls screeching but it was not seagulls.

"They dropped the anchor and found the source of the noise and found hundreds of the people in the water. They had one rubber ring but they saved 47 people".

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The story then advances on to the impact the day had on Mr Menna, who was "traumatised" about the 360 people who he tragically could not save.

Migrants on the boat were from the African nation of Eritrea, and at the time were travelling from Libya to Italy.

Emma Jane Kirby has lived in Ealing for more than five years

She added: "Then it is about what happens next, it is about how it affects him and all the others and how it made him see the migration crisis.

"He didn't see it as his problem and then it is forced into his vision.

"He was desperate to see them and found out what happened to them, and he was traumatised about who he couldn't save.

"He didn't want to tell his story because he is a very discreet man.

"He said it was me on the boat that day but who will it be tomorrow".

The book was also selected as Waterstones' Book of the Month for November, with £5 donated to Oxfam for its work with refugees for every copy sold.

The former foreign correspondent for the BBC has lived in Ealing for more than five years.

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