If you’ve spoken to me about books at all this year, there’s a high likelihood I’ve mentioned Chimene Suleyman’s The Chain

The Chain is a gripping and unputdownable true story about betrayal, sisterhood, and healing. In early 2017, Chimene Suleyman was accompanied by her loving boyfriend to undergo an abortion. When she stepped out of the clinic, after completing the procedure, her boyfriend was gone, not answering her messages or calls, and when she got home, he was gone, with all of his stuff (and some of hers). Grieving, confused, and looking for answers, she stumbles onto a social media post with a picture of his face, and a caption calling him a psychopath. Soon, she discovers that she wasn’t the first woman he’d betrayed and abused. And nor is she going to be the last. 

This is a fast-paced and impactful story that’s part memoir, part warning, part “whodunnit” scammer story, and part exploration of misogyny, abuse, and the collective power of sisterhood. This is a brilliant account of the “chains” we make, through our communities, our whisper networks, and over our cups of coffee, in order to share information, connect us, and protect us. This is already one of my favourite books of the year, and I strongly believe it’s going to be one of THE books of this summer. This is a must-read, and the momentum is only growing, with Suleyman’s recent announcement that The Chain has been optioned by Drama Republic, the production company that produced Netflix’s One Day.

In between her busy publicity schedule, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Chimene. She called me on a Friday evening, from her apartment in London, and in between some (rabid) fangirling (on my end), we had a thoughtful and incredible conversation about, among other things, her debut memoir.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Ameema Saeed (AS): What have you been reading and loving lately?

Chimene Suleyman: I’ve been reading Daisy Jones and the Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid). I know that I’m behind on that, but it’s kind of on theme, and I want to finish it because apparently there’s a great TV show. I want to finish this book first, then I’ll watch the show.

AS: I am so excited for you! I wish I could read it again for the first time… But the show is excellent! I assume one example is Fleetwood Mac,  but I’m wondering, what are some books or authors that have shaped you as a writer?

Chimene: Zadie Smith actually, she’s been a really big influence. I’m London born and bred, and I love the way she encapsulates English characters. Especially, N-W, it’s written like a slightly darker love letter to London. She’s definitely had a huge influence on the way that I read, and the stuff that I’m into.

One of my favourite books is a memoir by the artist Tracey Emin. It’s just incredibly raw. And it’s rare for Turkish Cypriot women to see other Turkish Cypriot women doing well in the mainstream, so that definitely hit me. 

AS: It’s SO powerful to be able to see yourself in other people, and in their work.

Chimene: I agree, it really matters. 

AS: Definitely. And speaking of seeing ourselves within others… one of the dominant themes you explored in The Chain was sisterhood & solidarity. Can you talk more about the power in sisterhood, and why you chose to highlight it?

Chimene: It’s only recently you start to see people that reflect the actual experiences of women, rather than the glossy Sex and the City version. 

I think because of that, women have to create their own underground network. It’s like a whisper network. We have to share our own stories with each other to make sure we’re looking after each other. Because I’m not sure how much society has looked after us so far… When you feel failed by the police system, and the legal systems and the media that are supposed to represent [you] – you feel like you’re never really being told the truth about us, and women have to make up for that by passing stories onto each other. By stepping in and doing the job that society hasn’t been doing.

AS: There’s a phrase often used in activist spheres – “we keep us safe”, and to me, this book felt like such an apt example of that. Your mention of “whisper networks” and subtle ways in which women, queer and trans people, people of colour, and other marginalized people protect ourselves and each other through disclosure and speaking up…. That resonates with me so much. Is that part of what drove you to make your story public, and then write this book?

Chimene: 7 years ago, when the book started, the idea was a long-form essay, that was almost like an exposé, kind of like Dirty John… working as a warning towards other women. Perhaps there was a need for him to take personal accountability, or some level of retribution or vengeance there… Who knows.

For me, the turning point was when I interviewed his male friends. I thought they would have been as duped by him as we had been, but they weren’t really. They knew a lot. That’s when I realized this was much bigger than an article about a single man. It’s about society. This is about men like him, not just this man. And women like us, not just us.


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A post shared by Chimene Suleyman (@chimenesuleyman)

AS: There is a lot of speculation about who this man is that you wrote about… Even I desperately wanted to know his name while I was reading the book. However, I think there’s so much power in not naming him. Can you talk more about this decision?

Chimene: He’s a vessel for which to tell a much bigger story. So I made the decision to refer to him as “he”, and not even give him a made-up name. I wanted other people who were reading it to project their “him” onto it.

I didn’t want people to think this was a book about this character, I wanted them to be able to transfer their version onto a generic man rather than this specific person.

AS: Can you tell our readers a bit about the title of your book and why you chose it?

Chimene: There’s obviously a significant nod to Fleetwood Mac, who I’ve always loved as a band. I’ve found their music incredibly powerful.

The Rumours album in particular was difficult for the band. Everyone was going through a lot of heartache, a lot of drinking and addiction, perhaps a lot of mental illness. The Chain, from my understanding, is the one song they all wrote together, and what they started all of their gigs with… I was always fascinated by something so beautiful coming out of something so miserable.

[Naming the book] wasn’t really a conscious decision. The song was so much a part of my own healing journey that it kept cropping up. It was not just about the healing nature of that song bringing lots of people who were hurt together, but it was about the much bigger story that I was trying to tell. 

AS: I love that. It’s like your own love letter to Fleetwood Mac.

Chimene: Exactly!

AS: So, this is a book where some really painful things happen, but it’s also a book that chronicles your healing journey, and the ways you found resilience, sisterhood, and joy. How does it feel to be writing about trauma and resilience at a time when it feels like maybe we need it more than ever?

Chimene: Honestly? Kind of frustrating… It’s frustrating to still have women writing and talking about the exact same thing. Nothing really feels like it’s changing, and I think because of that, it’s important to keep talking and telling our own stories.

It doesn’t start and end with The Chain. There were many similar books before this, and I’m sure there will sadly be more to come. It’s certainly frustrating. I first started writing it 7 years ago, and back then, life was still difficult, but it does feel like it’s gotten worse by the time I came around to editing and finishing it. For example… Roe v. Wade was overturned. And suddenly, I was writing about something that happened 7 years ago, under a very different climate. One that is worse.


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A post shared by Harper Books (@harperbooks)

AS: What do you hope readers take from The Chain?

Chimene:  I want anyone who’s blaming themselves after having been in similar situations to no longer do that. I’d like them to hopefully answer some questions about their own self-loathing, which is unfortunately something you often feel when you’ve been abused.  And more dramatically, if there are any women who are still going through it, who don’t quite know how to confront that, hopefully it might get them out of the situation. Hopefully they can see their abusive partner in this character, and hopefully feel the strength and support they need to help themselves and walk away from “him”.

AS: That was one of the things that struck me most about The Chain, how so many people can see themselves in it!

Chimene: I mean, it’s bittersweet, isn’t it? On one hand, you want it to do well as a book, and you want it to resonate, especially with women who need it…  but on the other hand, what a shame that so many women can relate and have their own version of him.

I’d also like more men to read The Chain. Language is changing around misogyny, and our understanding of what constitutes sexual assault, or abuse is changing, and this is relatively recent. Just as women are learning what abuse looks like, men are also learning what abuse looks like, including the ways in which they are complicit (either themselves, or with what they’ve allowed their friends to get away with).

 I think it could be uncomfortable for a lot of men to read a book and see what women go through, and the darker side of how we feel…  but… be uncomfortable. Sit with that. I think that’s really important.

Chimene Suleyman’s The Chain is out in Canada and the United States on April 30th. Preorder your copy now, or pick it up from your favourite bookstore upon its release. You can find Chimene on Instagram, and X (Formerly Twitter)


Chimene Suleyman is a poet and writer of Turkish Cypriot descent who lives in London. She has written on the politics of race and immigration for the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, NPR, and Sky News. She is the co-editor of The Good Immigrant USA, and the author of the memoir The Chain


Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of very specific playlists and customized book recommendations. She’s a book reviewer, a Sensitivity Reader, a book buyer at Indigo Books & Music, and the Books Editor for She Does the City, where she writes and curates bookish content, and book recommendations. She enjoys bad puns, good food, dancing, and talking about feelings. She writes about books, big feelings, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write your next favourite book one day. When she’s not reading books, she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz