Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell- Book Review

Day 16 of #AtoZChallenge

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is Nadia Hashimi’s debut novel. Her fiction mostly portrays relationships and plight of women in war-struck Afghanistan. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a story of two young women who undergo various feats to overcome the tremendous challenges thrown in their face by their respective destinies. Though both of them are centuries apart in time, they are both forced to live parts of their lives posing as boy/man. The freedom that they tasted in the garb of opposite gender is something they could not have had experienced as a woman. This is a story of Rahima or Rahim-the bacha posh and Shekiba or Shekib- the woman-man guard of the royal palace.

Rahima is second of four sisters in a family of a drug-addict father who works for a war-lord in a war-struck Afghanistan. She is made to pose as bacha-posh, a boy, as her mother is not able to bear a son. The arrangement works well for everybody as Rahim, the bacha posh, helps her mother with the house-hold chores and keeps her father happy with the delusion of having a son. But this fairy-tale comes to an abrupt end when the war-lord for whom Rahima’s father works offers to marry Rahima. Her sister, Parwin, is also married to a cousin of the war-lord. Though the sisters live only a wall apart in their new homes, they hardly get to see each other while they struggle in their married lives.
When Rahima’s aunt tells the girls about Shekiba, their great great grandmother who has had an equally challenging life many centuries ago, Rahima draws inspiration from the story of her. Shekiba who had half of her disfigured due to an accident in her childhood is abhorred by everybody around her.  She is known to bring bad luck. But her life takes a turn when she land’s up in the royal palace. She dresses up as a man and guards the harem of King’s mistresses. She feels free to walk about in pants and without the chador( the head scarf) but his freedom comes with a price.

Though Rahima and Shekiba’s stories are depicted in different times, beautiful narration by the author ensures that the reader is smoothly transported between the eras and does not feel lost. One might feel sympathetic to these women but also praises their courage and perseverance. The subtle message that the plight of women in Afghanistan has not changed much over the centuries is not lost.  

Having read two of Hashimi’s novels, it’s easy to be assured that you will never be disappointed with her books. Reading the tales of hardships portrayed in her books sitting in a comfortable room makes you grateful for what you have. But you are also certain of change and progress by the optimism scattered in the stories. Rahima and Shekiba story of adversities and hope certainly deserves to be read.

My Rating- 

About the Author: Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion.Her upbringing, experiences, and love for reading came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!). Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was released in 2014. Her second novel, When The Moon Is Low, followed in 2015 and chronicled the perilous journey of an Afghan family as they fled Taliban-controlled Kabul and fell into the dark world of Europe's undocumented.

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