Abdulla’s first wife from an arranged marriage died in a car crash three years ago whilst she was pregnant with their first child. He is still grieving but his family have arranged another marriage, this time to his cousin Hind. The only thing they have in common is that neither wants this marriage. As part of the marriage contract, Hind negotiates for a delay of a year so she can go and study for a Masters Degree in London, a year of freedom before the constraints of marriage directed by the privileged life they lead in Qatar.
In London Hind meets Sangita who comes from an Indian family but brought up in America. They may come from different cultures and religions but both feel the pressure of marriage in their cultures and bond over this. But, little does Hind know that this friendship will have a large impact on her future.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about arranged marriage apart from the horror stories in the press, or about muslim or hindu customs. This, however, did not hinder my reading of this book. Both subjects are dealt with great erudition and ease so I felt by the end of the book I knew a lot more. The one aspect of arranged marriage that was a the forefront was the pressure felt by both parties from family members; neither Abdulla or Hind felt they could raise their concerns that this marriage was not for them, they couldn’t even tell each other.
Being set in two different cities, Doha and London, the reader gets to see how wide the gap is culturally between the two countries, and how Hind is free to dress and do what she likes whilst studying in London. This novel gives a great insight into life in a muslim country and its cultures. Luckily there is a glossary of terms at the back of the book so you can check any words that aren’t familiar.
This is a very informative, good read with a twist at the end that came as a surprise.