Sharaf by Raj Kumar set in Saudi Arabia
Sharaf - ‘Honour’ - is about a topic we have become familiar with over years. A father has promised his unborn daughter in marriage to his friend’s son. Farhan, the Father and Maryam, the daughter, have a very close relationship. Maryam is intelligent, inquisitive and independent, but respects her father’s promise and accepts what will happen. She is prepared to be a good daughter and give up hope of extending her education or travelling to different places to marry a man she does not know.
But Maryam meets someone, she falls in love, it is forbidden love. The religious police, Mutawa, become interested in the situation and the rest is as you would expect.
But there is more to this book. The story is explicit about how men treat women, in particular non Islamic women, for their own pleasure; the lack of respect for marriage if a male child is not produced, a younger wife is installed. There is terrorism, drug trafficking, torture and illegal holding of prisoners. There is also the surprising behaviour of two young Saudi Arabian women.
I read this book quickly, it is an easy read. I was irritated by having to keep turning to the Glossary at the front of the book for the translation of words in Arabic used in the text; it disrupted the flow. However, a different way of looking at it was that authenticity is introduced and some of the words did become familiar after a while.
I was surprised by my reaction to this book. The terrorism, torture and treatment of other people left me feeling a little angry. There is a lack of respect for others and no value put on the lives of others, be it about their views, their nationality or their beliefs. Why should I be surprised? We know about this, but this book really emphasised it to me.
However, it does not end there. Another secret eventually emerges which explains the background to a relationship between the Mothers of the betrothed. Is there a happy ending? Well I’m not going to give anything away.
Thank you to our Guest Blogger, Ann Reddy for reviewing this novel. For more novels to delve into the Saudi world, click here (and yes, many of the books set in Saudi Arabia have a cover with a pair of womens' eyes, peaking out from behind the niqab... )