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Onion Tears: A Novel
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Onion Tears: A Novel

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  84 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Love, loss and life are the themes that weave through this tale of three generations of Muslim women living in suburban South Africa. Khadeejah Bibi Ballim is a hard-working and stubborn first generation Indian who longs for her beloved homeland and often questions what she is doing on the tip of Africa.
296 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by Penguin Books South Africa
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(showing 1-30)
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Oct 16, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
There are various reasons why this novel deserves a 5 star status. First and foremost the lyrical prose in which it was written is truly a salve to the soul. Secondly the language use of the three women is typical to their age and calender time. Thirdly the themes of life and loss are handled in a way in which the reader becomes a part of these emotions and not an innocent bystander. I find the author's metaphors refreshingly new and deeply meaningful. The title not only relates to Kadeejah's ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it
I really really enjoyed this easy to read but not vacuous story.
This South African novel tells the story of three generations of Indian women, living in South Africa. The very distinctly South African feel merges wonderfully with what feels like a very authentic Indian experience.

I love South African literature and try to read as much of it as I can. This book is a great example of South African literature. It is wonderfully rich, real and vibrant, and very clearly South African without beating
Meneesha Govender
May 10, 2011 Meneesha Govender rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It is her debut novel and is already being translated into Italian. Moreover, 1 500 copies have been
bought and will be sold in India. I spoke to Shubnum Khan about her
novel that was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and has made this year’s
Exclusive Books Homebru list

ONION Tears is a story about three generations of Muslim women living in Johannesburg. It is a simple story of loss, love and life. Its characters are women in a single family, going about their lives as best the
Jun 05, 2013 Saadaab rated it it was amazing
Onion Tears is very easy to read, the conversational, precocious tone of the narrator makes turning each page a pleasure than a chore. Never does it seem the reader is "going through the motions", every sentence and every detail adds to the story and each character's profile. At the start we would be learning some stuff about each character and then every so often we'd be told something out of the blue that almost jolts us, but causes us to realise the assumptions we've automatically ...more
Jun 04, 2013 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
Shubnum Khan's debut novel gives us a perspective on South African life that in my opinion has so far been missing from our country's literature. Reading this for me was like an intimate conversation with a friend who understands and knows the idiosyncratic culture of South African Indian people. The familiarity of reading about characters who, although in the novel are Muslim, by their mannerisms and culture represent a much wider spectrum of Indian South Africans and our experience of ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Avi rated it it was amazing
A light-hearted still a touching story - I found this book to be a wonderful read.

The story telling is powerful with various layers intertwined - complex characters with strong identities, their intricate past, and the society they deal with. The author never fails to see the humour in all of it, and as she reveals the layers of the personalities, answers to their questions, and the different faces of society, the commentary leaves the reader with much to think about, and a smile lingering behin
Sinovuyo Nkonki
May 09, 2013 Sinovuyo Nkonki rated it it was amazing
Shubnum writes the way I aspire to write. She writes about a Muslim family, focusing on three generations of women within the family. This book contains poignancy, it is poetic yet jarringly real. She creates suspense throughout the book about a family secret that kept me hooked. She knows when to slow down the pace and when to hurry up and get to the point. I believe it is art through the written word. I found myself wondering how the characters were doing after putting it down...she fooled me ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Mahinn rated it really liked it
The novel starts off leisurely, almost lazily and about midway you begin to wonder if anything is going to happen. There appears to be a dearth of plot. But as soon as you've thought it, things begin to move. Events, incidents, flashbacks, new characters. The story picks up pace and then it gets pretty meaty. If you're looking for something easy flowing, languid and yet displays a terrific play of words and simile and metaphor, this is worth a read.
Aeman Ansari
Jun 12, 2013 Aeman Ansari rated it it was amazing
"Onion Tears" is an ode to words that linger long after you finish reading the last page. The characters are powerful and oddly familiar. Reading Khadeejah Bibi's story I felt like I was meeting my grandmother after years. Shubnum Khan makes every taste, scent and emotion more real than if you were experiencing it yourself. It is a book that makes you smile, cry and wonder. Pick up "Onion Tears". It will leave you wanting more.
Jun 10, 2013 Gugu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book surprisingly gentle and touching and it often brought tears to my eyes.

Khan manages to transport readers into this world of women, all with their own secrets, heartaches and desires. Each character is distinct and yet their shared experience comes through clearly.

The language, to me, was spot on and I enjoyed being immersed in that world.

I recommend it!
Julia Grundling
May 27, 2012 Julia Grundling rated it it was amazing
what a beautiful book! i've been meaning to read this book for a while now. I bought it a few days ago and was surprised that it was a local south African author! I didnt even know that. I finished it tonight in a restaurant and cried in public. wow, what gut wrenching emotions. and it was so beautifully written. this book really deserves a five star!
Apr 09, 2012 Tessa rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-africa, 2012
This novel is set in South Africa and tells the story of 3 generations of women from an Indian family. The story is well-told and it brought me into the world of the Indian community in South Africa, a perspective I hadn't yet explored.
Aug 23, 2012 Mari rated it it was amazing
Could not put it down. Beautifully written. Love how the ending of one chapter flows into the next one.
Jun 17, 2013 Maryann rated it really liked it
An enormously satisfying book. Highly recommended.
Nazia Kera
Feb 17, 2013 Nazia Kera rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Poignant and touching, An affirmation of sorts.
Oct 03, 2016 Swarnima rated it liked it
When generation after another peeling layer after another the tears don't stop until someone reaches the core. Life of three women tangled in hope,fear and a lot more.
Nov 09, 2015 Shagufta rated it really liked it
My review of Onion Tears can be found in the following audio story:
Nadia rated it really liked it
Nov 05, 2012
Chandni rated it liked it
Apr 30, 2013
Zahira rated it did not like it
May 09, 2015
Darlene Creamer
Darlene Creamer rated it really liked it
Jan 06, 2013
Rucita Vassen
Rucita Vassen rated it it was ok
Mar 26, 2014
Mathujan rated it it was amazing
Feb 17, 2014
Chaitali rated it liked it
May 09, 2013
Safiyya rated it really liked it
Oct 09, 2012
Seema Rao
Seema Rao rated it it was amazing
Aug 11, 2016
Pratima Mantri
Pratima Mantri rated it did not like it
May 06, 2015
Jul 22, 2011 Juwi rated it liked it
Quite slow paced but an enjoyable read. =)
Jenny Taylor
Jenny Taylor rated it really liked it
Apr 11, 2016
Kelso Ansara
Kelso Ansara rated it really liked it
May 18, 2011
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Shubnum Khan was born in Durban. She has a degree in Media Studies and a Masters degree in English. Her first novel Onion Tears was published by Penguin and shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and the University of Johannesburg Debut Fiction Prize. She has participated in local and international literary festivals and her work has been translated into Italian, Vietnamese, ...more
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