Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Can't remember where I picked up Leila Aboulela's novel - maybe in Turkey? Apparently it was long-listed for the Orange Booker Prize in 2006. I would expect it to have been at the far end of the list, on literary merit. Suspect it got there because of the story.

It's about a young woman, Najwa, who grew up in an extremely rich and hence very privileged lifestyle in Sudan where her father was a government minister. In a coup the government is deposed and disposed of. The family flees the country to London which the young people find very glamorous at first. However, as time goes on their money runs out, and by the time the book ends Najwa has a very different lifestyle and view of the world. At the same time still London is full of rich Sudanese (it would seem), but Nawja's place in society is quite different. A woman who as a girl laughed at those who wore the veil, by the end she gets religion (probably through loneliness and looking for contacts) and is very deeply veiled herself. A presumably Muslim reviewer on the Amazon site says that 'Najwa chose the right path for her and transformed her life in the best way'.

The story is very interesting, and really quite gripping, and perhaps from that point of view it's worth reading it, especially if you don't know anything about Islam. Despite what the critics say, however, I felt that the book is written as if by a bad ghost-writer - which is a bit of a shame.