So this is an Orenda book – it’s bound to be a cracker, am I right?
Yes! You are, although a tad more exotic than we’re used to, and with a warmer setting too – no Nordic Noir to be found here! The quality, as expected, is just as good as ever. And this is one book which will linger in your mind long after you finish it…
So tell me what it’s all about then?
Well, it’s not hard to guess from the setting – Pakistan – and the title it’s about honour killings, and the book pulls no punches by opening with one such killing – a really disturbing, but necessary, scene. I think we take for granted in the UK the rights and freedoms the main character, 16-year-old Abida, is denied – but honour killings are not unheard of in the UK either, as anyone who follows the news will be aware.
So what happens to Abida?
Like any 16-year-old girl, she meets a boy and falls in love – but when she becomes pregnant realises she has two choices, neither of them palatable – death, or to flee beyond the reach of those in her family who would kill her to defend their “honour.” It’s always struck me as incomprehensible that people consider murder as more respectable than falling in love with the wrong person. So, with the help of her father Jamil, she heads to Lahore, hoping to lose herself in the hustle and bustle of the city. But Abida soon realises there is little kindness to be found in the city, where life is cheap.
What about her father? What does he do?
Jamil follows, and the story alternates between the two of them, who find life in Lahore very different from their quiet village, and not nearly so quiet, with drugs, violence, and horrendous poverty everywhere. Eventually, thankfully, they meet again, both having learnt some hard lessons along the way. Jamil isn’t a bad father, but he’s been brought up in the traditional way Pakistani way, with traditional values – although he may not always agree with them.
How would you describe this book?
It’s not an easy read, in terms of subject matter, although Khan’s style is unfrilly and draws you in from the horrendous opening few pages. I found myself not wanting to put it down, desperate to find out what happened to the characters, especially, obviously Abida, a gutsy heroine who really has you rooting for her. In her, he’s created a wonderful lead character.
The whole book opens up a subject which needs to be talked about – something that doesn’t only happen in Pakistan – amongst other countries – but in first world countries too. Books like these need to be read, and talked about, by everyone, until honour killings become something that belong in the past. I hope that day comes in my lifetime.
In short, an exhilarating, exotic, but hugely enjoyable book. Yet another winner from Orenda Books.
With thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advance reading copy and allowing me to participate in this tour.