The Afghan Wife…
About the Book:
During the volatile times that followed the Iranian revolution in 1979, Zahra, her husband and son are forced to leave their homeland of Afghanistan with her revolutionary activist cousin, Firzun.
Zahra’s life becomes embroiled with Firzun’s, as her cousin joins the violent opposition to the new regime in Iran. Complexities increase as she again meets Karim, a man she’s loved since she was a teenager.
As the political turmoil unfolds, Zahra must choose between love and family loyalty.
It’s not until reading a novel such as The Afghan Wife, do I realise just how ‘western’ my reading choices usually are. I’m not sure if this is by accident or design, but it’s definitely something to ponder over. The Afghan Wife is an exceptionally good novel, complex in its story and themes, yet incredibly engaging and easy to follow – an absolute bonus when reading a story bound up with politics and war.
Set in 1979, to me this novel qualifies as historical fiction, but there are themes of love, war, and politics that make this a read that will have wide appeal. It’s very fast paced, with a sense of urgency that notched up my engagement and had me turning the pages long into the night. I didn’t feel as though I could just mark the page and sleep on it. Too much was happening, too much was at stake, and too much still needed to be resolved.
I found many parts of this story difficult to deal with, in the sense of the truth it was portraying. The suppression of women under fundamentalist Muslim regimes is almost impossible to accept, as a Western non-Muslim woman. It distresses me to know that women are treated with such contempt; almost reviled on account of their gender alone. To be an abused Muslim woman within a fundamentalist household is a whole different kettle of fish. These women are cut off in a completely different way to other women, restricted by more than just one man; leaving is not an option, even ending up a widow does not equate to freedom. Zahra’s story highlighted much of this. Even with a male cousin who was aware of her abuse and despised her husband for it, she was still left for so long to endure it. There was just no allowances made for her to be supported. I hope this has changed, but given the political climate in the middle East over the last couple of decades, I sincerely doubt it.
Another aspect of this story that was distressing was the awareness of how entrenched terrorism really is. To be more explicit, you have a regime that is built on terror, and the response to this is terrorist cells retaliating against the regime with acts of terror, resulting in the regime retaliating with acts of terror, and then splinter groups forming to retaliate with acts of terror…you see what I mean, this is a cycle of terrorism that has no end. It’s insane.
For Zahra, the powerlessness of her situation was confronting. She had no control over her own destiny. She went from being under the control of her husband to her cousin, both of them pursuing their ideals through terrorism with no regard for the danger this posed to Zahra and her young son. Her safety and well being was incidental. The fear she lived with daily would have been crippling. I can’t even comprehend what living like that would do to a person; your physical health would have to suffer as well as your mental health. I believe there is sequel in the works for this story. I’m not a fan of sequels and would have liked the novel to be a little longer so that Zahra’s story could have been fully resolved. The ending was too abrupt when considered within the context of how invested I became in the character and her well being.
And yet, through all of this, there was a beauty depicted, a sense of community attached to being Muslim, a knowledge that your culture has survived for centuries and has a rich and lasting history. I could see past the acts of terror and fully understand the resistance against fundamentalism. It’s very important to distinguish between Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims. The two are not the same at all and in today’s world, this all the more important. The Afghan Wife is a terrific novel for demonstrating the two within the one context. It’s a powerfully informative text based on solid research and anecdotal experience by the author.
Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a copy of The Afghan Wife for review. The Afghan Wife is published by Odyssey Books.
About the Author:
Cindy lived in a small town on the Black Sea coast of Turkey for two years where she taught English. This was the beginning of a life-long interest in Middle Eastern culture and language. Born in the UK she emigrated to Australia in 1975 with her family. She’s been an English language teacher, free-lance travel writer and tour guide, in both Turkey and Sydney, Australia. Her first novel The Afghan Wife is a love story set against the background of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. She’s currently working on a sequel.