Setting: London 1990 - 2001
I had a hard time reading this book slowly. I wanted things to happen! Was impatient to see what would happen next...where was this story going? Like watching a movie where midway through, Tim and I ask each other - “where is this going?” Not good. Not spellbinding like good fiction. I want to be lost in a story, not skimming through. I want to be impatient in a good way - can’t read fast enough to see what happens, not impatient waiting to see what happens. A very big difference.
There were sections where Nazneen was reading letters from her sister, Hasina who lived in Pakistan. I skimmed through these pages - not a compelling enough reason to stop and read. What was the point of the letters? Not even finding the answer to that question was enough motivation to read.
Nazeen leaves her village in Pakistan for a husband via an arranged marriage who lives in London. He is a gentle man, does not beat her but is man years older and although he is a scholar (according to himself), he is not able to do much with his life. She succumbs to Fate and does not expect much from life. The death of her firstborn, a son, must be horrifying for a young mother but she buries her feelings. Has two girls and play more the referee between the oldest and her husband. She recognizes him for who he is - a bunch of hot air who likes to hear himself speak. Time passes and she meets a handsome, young radical, Karim. They begin a passionate affair in which she lives in sin and deceit. But is awakened and feels alive.
Description of Buckingham Palace - perfect! Page 240
Description of why her husband and Dr. Azad were friends: I absolutely love this paragraph. So beautifully written. Says exactly what is meant.
“She remembered the night, many years ago, when she had fist wondered what brought these two men together. Now, what kept them together was clear. The doctor had status and respect and money, the lack of which caused Chanu to suffer. But the doctor had no family; none he could speak of without suffering. Chanu had a proper wife, daughters who behaved themselves. But this clever man, for all his books, was nothing better than a rickshaw wallah. And so they entwined their lives to drink from the pools of each other’s sadness. From these special watering holes, each man drew strength” (271).
Opening: “An hour and forty-five minutes before Nazreen’s life began - began as it would proceed for quite some time, that is to say uncertainly, her mother, Rupban felt an iron fist squeeze her belly.”