courtesy of a special order from Auntie’s Bookstore
THIS IS A BANNED BOOK
No sex. No atheism. No politics. Still banned in Qatar.
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 the man or the woman betrothed to each other really want 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. (In my blog on the United Arab Emirates, rich people also drive like madmen. Crazy. Of course, so do Italians although Umberto Eco doesn’t mention it that I recall.)
What Is Life Like For the Filthy Rich?
The Qatar presented in this book isn’t a pretty picture. The main characters in the book are spoiled and entitled and very very rich. If you took America’s top 1 Percent, and populated an entire desert country with them, well, that is the Qatar of this novel. The rich people’s servants come from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India and aren’t treated very well. Qataris 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. (Not to say that Americans can’t be materialistic too.)The men are trapped by this society–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 nagging as “saving face.”
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, took 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. Of course, it’s only one glimpse.
Rating: 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.
PPS–I’ve just had a comment from the author of this book! Is it too nerdy to say I was thrilled? LOL Anyway, the sequel is out. It’s called Pearls of the Past. So, loose ends…prepare to get woven together with the ties that bind.