by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
courtesy of a special order from Auntie’s Bookstore
This novel raises many questions. Number one is, how can you have a country that starts with a Q and no U? But all joking aside, this was a thought-provoking book. An Indian graduate student in London falls in love with her Qatari flatmate’s fiance. The thing is, neither of the betrothed couple really wanted to marry each other.
The man in the arrangement lost his wife in a tragic car accident–of which there are all too many in this country of speeding automobiles–and the woman wants to study and have freedom rather than be a virtual slave of some guy.
The Qatar presented in this book isn’t a pretty picture. The people are spoiled and entitled and very very rich. Their servants come from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India and aren’t treated very well. They drive even to go a distance of two blocks. Women aren’t allowed to work, so they spend all their time shopping at the mall. They seem shallow and vacuous. The men are trapped by this society too–Abdullah, the hero of the book, doesn’t want to remarry after Fatima is killed, but his male relatives nag him relentlessly for the family’s good name. I have no doubt that a Japanese person would recognize this as “saving face.”
The thing is, there doesn’t seem to be anything about this setup that makes people happy.
To keep wealth in the family, they all try to marry their cousins. Yes, their first cousins. The younger generation, however, is starting to rebel. Hind and Abdullah are just two of those. But is the patriarchal system about to grind them up and spit them out in little tiny pieces? It seems most likely.
The Final Say
I enjoyed the developing romance between Sangita and Abdullah, and the struggles that Hind had for independence. The author, I think, too care not to tie things up too neatly, although she could have. I won’t give the specifics as it is a major spoiler.
Suffice it to say that if you want a glimpse of life in modern Qatar, along with a cracking good love story, read this book.
Five desert highrises.
Oh, PS–I forgot to mention that this book was a 2013 finalist for the e-Festival of Wordsand it won the New Talent Award in the 2012 Festival of Romance Competition. If that’s not enough for you, it is also a Best Indie 2013 Book Award Winner.