Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review: The Harem

How far would you go to be free? THE HAREM, is a fast-paced novel about young Asian women and their quest for freedom.Farina has only one dream: to be free and move away from Peckville, a Muslim ghetto in a large city. She is eager to escape the clutches of her strict parents who will not let her drink, party or have any kind of contact with males. As soon as she turns eighteen, she sets her dream in motion and gets her own apartment. The only problem is that her minimum-wage job leaves her feeling anything but liberated. How can she resist when her ambitious best friend Sabrina proposes an infallible business idea? How harmful can running as escort agency really be? Will she finally be freed by her increasing wealth and independence, or will she remain enslaved by her increasing guilt?


How far would you go to be free? The words that can be found on the back cover of the book. It would probably be the apt way to concisely describe this wonderful book. When I started reading The Harem, I was a little anxious about where it would go. But the book definitely exceeded my expectations.

Fazlul's book is contemporary and fast read that deals with some very real issues. It is humorous and tragic at the same time. The conversations between the girls is often lighthearted and simple. I found that her writing was uncomplicated though, most of the issues addressed through this fiction story of freedom, restrictions, gender and class biases are mostly very complex. She also discusses beautifully the gender division of labour within a home; the restrictions of living in a muslim ghetto and the immense restrictions that it brought to her identity.

Following the start of the escort agency, Farina begins to see some of the truths in the sex industry. She notices the racist, sexist attitudes of the clients her girls attended to. Despite Sabrina assuring her the women knew what they were getting into, Farina's judgment left her sleepless on many an occasion. She noticed the desperation in some of the girl's eyes when they couldn't get a client for several weeks at a stretch. Though the money it brought in was much more than she imagined, the heavy heart was more than she wished for.

The book despite dealing with very serious issues never bored me. It was interesting the way the character's shaped up. The end however was very disturbing and I found that the maturity with which it was handled commendable.

I would recommend others to read because I found it portrayed relationships and dynamics intricately well. The transition between present and past was also smooth. I refrain from making any assumptions about how this story came to Fazlul but I am glad it did.

Overall rating: 4
Cover rating: 2 (I personally didn't understand it!)
Writing: 3.5
Story: 4
Character sketching: 4

(This book review was long overdue)