THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL, BY NADIA HASHIMI
The friend who recommended this one to me said it was heavy, but a good read. It is, indeed, very heavy, and quite frustrating. I've been reading lots of very heavy books lately. Apparently, women write a lot of those.
Synopsis: Rahima, a young Afghani girl, is turned into a bacha posh, which means she can dress and act as a boy until she is old enough to marry. Once she does get married, she resents the loss of freedom and has a hard time adapting to life as a woman. She takes strength from the story of Bibi Shekiba, an ancestor of hers, to try and improve her conditions.
Overall enjoyment: Like I said, I've been reading a lot of heavy books lately, and it can be a bit taxing after a while. Her story and the environment she's in are very oppressive, and it's frustrating to read about them. Also, I've been very busy and stressed out lately. It is a good book, though; interesting and well-written. But maybe it would have been better for me to read something lighter, considering the circumstances.
Plot: There are two different, and mostly separate, plots: Rahima's and Shekiba's. I like how she intertwined them; they're not exactly dependent on each other, but she makes them flow together.
Characters: They're very well made. The ones in Rahima's story, which is more or less contemporary, are very complex and lifelike. The ones in Shekiba's story, which happens in the past, have an almost fable-like quality, and it goes very well with the idea that Rahima's aunt is telling her the story.
World/setting: In this case, the cultural setting is much more important than the physical one. There's very little talk of actual locations; the ambiance is given by the traditions and attitudes of the characters.
Writing style: Very pleasant to read, in spite of the heavy subject.
Representation: The book is set in Afghanistan, all about women.
Political correctness: It's a very feminist book. It's very frustrating to read about what Rahima goes through, especially knowing there are many non-fictional women going through all that. Combined with the constant affirmation that, according to the society she lives in, women are property (and almost useless property), it makes for a very uncomfortable read. I like how she doesn't say it outright, but she makes it very clear that the competition and cattiness of those women has its roots on them depending completely on the attention of men. I also liked how Rahima doesn't get rescued, but saves herself.
I hope the next one is lighter... Even though I have the feeling it won't be.
Up next: Petals from the Sky, by Mingmei Yip