Genre: General popular fiction; chick lit
Favourite Quote: “…were millions of doves. They were a bubbling froth, their warble a low boil”
The book follows the lives of five women, all who meet in a little coffee shop in Kabul.
If you are looking for an easy holiday read, which won’t require lots of concentration to keep up with the plot and the characters, then this is a great book for you. Drawing on the authors own experiences, it gives you some insight into what life in Kabul might be like for a westerner. Sadly however, as it was written by a westerner, sometimes the dialogue felt forced as the characters were used too much to voice the authors own opinions. Although all characters are used in this way to an extent, with it sometimes being a good thing (link between tolerance of minority groups and children reading Harry Potter anyone?*) it was very patronising in this instance. Politics and culture were brought up constantly, which is to be expected from a book set in Kabul, however again this often felt like you were purposely being taught by the author, as someone acts and then it is explained why they acted that way in the context of the culture. In essence then even if you wanted a very brief and generalised introduction to the politics and cultural norms in Kabul this would be of little use to you as it is an American interpretation of the country, and lacks the subtlety of other authors who write about modern day Afghanistan.
On the note of patronising readers, sadly the fact that random words would often be translated into Dari for no reason also had this effect, rather than what I presumed was the intention of authenticity. As the words were explained immediately after being used, despite being pretty self-explanatory in the first place, the reader was left feeling a little annoyed, especially as this was a regular occurrence throughout.
“‘You knew I was hamla and you took me to your house?’ Of course, said Sunny, knowing the word for pregnant.”
Despite the subject matter discussed being often quite serious for instance the plight of fatherless babies in Afghanistan, the ownership of women by men etc. the book had a light-hearted feel which was at odds with this. These mentions of the more serious aspects of life in Kabul were juxtaposed with stereotypical and laughable-in-comparison worries of the western women in the book, for instance which man to pick. It was hard to empathise with the women discussed as somehow the book seemed to lack emotional depth, and perhaps the author should have tried to focus on one or two stories rather than five in order to achieve this.
In summary it is a good read if you want something quick and easy, but sadly it lacks emotional depth, character development and can leave you feeling somewhat patronised. If I were to recommend a fictional book on Afghanistan from the point of view of women, then I would be far more likely to suggest ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hossieni. You learn about the culture and politics without realising that it’s occurring, and the emotional depth and empathy with the characters can sometimes feel almost too much!
If you have read this book please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think!