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The World Unseen

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,313 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Miriam is the traditional young Indian mother, hardworking and self-effacing. When she meets the rebellious Amina who confounds the Indian community by driving a taxi and setting up a cafe with a black man, her world is turned upside down.
Paperback, 344 pages
Published June 7th 2004 by Headline Publishing Group (first published May 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 13, 2012 J.L. rated it it was amazing
The World Unseen is a story of forbidden love in 1950s South Africa. Apartheid has just become the law of the land. Segregation is not only limited to blacks and whites, but also extends to coloreds and Indians. The ultimate goal for women is to be provided a good match for a husband, have children, keep house, and cook well. A successful wife is a subservient one.

The protagonist, Amina, wants a different life. She wants to dress in clothes in which she feels the most comfortable. She wants to o
Aug 13, 2009 Gwen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009-read, lgbt
I highly recommend this book!

I love Shamim Sarif's writing style. The story is set in South Africa during the Apartheid (segragation) 1952. Marim is a housewife who has recently left a "city" area and moved to a lonely farm area. Her husband has opened a shop there, which Marim helps. She is the mother of 3 children and looking for something to full-fill her days, but she doesn't realize what she is missing until she meets Amina. Amina is a fiercly independent woman who is running a restaurant w
Danika at The Lesbrary
Although I was really interested in the setting of this book and enjoyed the writing style and characters, there were a couple of factors that held me back from rating this higher. One was that this is set in apartheid South Africa, but apartheid itself is just a subplot. Although the Indian main characters do experience racism, they don't face the full brunt of apartheid, and the minor characters who do seem very minor and underdeveloped. Add to that (view spoiler) ...more
Richard Kunzmann
Apr 15, 2009 Richard Kunzmann rated it liked it
A Vision of Indian Life and Taboo in South Africa

This is a finely woven tale with a magical sense of place, atmosphere and character, set in 1950s South Africa during the time of apartheid’s most stringent race laws. Arriving in South Africa from India, shy Miriam and her unapproachable husband seek a better life in Delhof for their children. They set up a general store in a remote area, and soon Miriam is wrapped up in a mundane existence without a smile, without much pleasure and love, excep
Jan 01, 2011 Lauren rated it it was amazing
The World Unseen was a quick read that made me think, consider, and cry. The story takes place in South Africa during Apartheid. In this era and place, tragedy is unavoidable. There are two main characters: Mirim and Amina. The two women seem to be inexorably drawn to one another, though their lives are very different. Their love story is innocent and painful. The author has created interesting secondary characters who have fascinating stories of their own. Though the ending hardly leaves the re ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a disappointing little melodrama that fails to live up to its premise, as a story about two Indian women falling in love in apartheid South Africa. Instead it suffers from black-and-white characterization, over-the-top scenarios and a failure to address the most interesting questions raised by the plot.

Miriam is a traditional young wife and mother who immigrated to South Africa to join her husband, and now has two small children. Then she meets Amina, a fiery young woman who runs her own
Jun 16, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. I feel like the ending was rather abrupt, however,and I finished it wanting to know more. But a great book nonetheless.
I don’t what I was expecting of this story, but maybe it was a little bit more. More of the relationship between Amina and Miriam? The blurb basically implies that this is mostly about their journey and love, but really they only actually connect at the end of the book and then it’s rather wrapped up neatly. Most of it is about them separately and other family drama. I’m always up for stories set in different times, cultures and countries, and I felt on this level this book was a very good read. ...more
Justine Johnson
Jun 12, 2015 Justine Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I never imagined I'd be so domesticated," she said, and laughed. Miriam hesitated and then spoke. "I never imagined anything else."

The World Unseen and I Can't Think Straight are a neat combo pack that I've been a fan since I saw them both years ago. I always thought it was impressive and unique that Shamin Sarif not only wrote the books, but then went on to adapt the screenplays, direct both movies, and cast the same two actresses to play the leads. When there are so few female directors out
Mar 19, 2015 egelantier rated it really liked it
fried green tomatoes (that's an inescapable reference, so let's get it out of the way at once) set during the beginning of apartheid in south africa. amina is an unconventional, rebellious young lesbian indian woman who set herself apart from the indian community in pretoria, who lives her life the way she wants to; miriam is a quiet, demure woman trapped in a loveless arranged marriage with a cold, abusive man. when they meet, their life is going to change.

the book is, in fact, less about thei
The World Unseen deals primarily with two Indian families in South Africa which have non-conformist members that refuse to co-operate with apartheid. Amina has an African business partner with whom she runs a café. Amina is also a lesbian. This is never stated explicitly. There is a reference to a past relationship with a woman, but there is no explicit lesbian sexuality in this book. So the cover might be considered misleading in the view of readers who are looking for an explicit lesbian roman ...more
Aug 08, 2016 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, to-reread, lesbian
I find myself disappointed with a book that I wanted so, so hard to love. It's annoying me because I was loving the book and then it ended. Just like that it was over and done and I have absolutely no clue why that was done. I guess we as the reader can assume what happens with the amount of information presented to us, but I wanted more than that - I wanted to see it happen. I will say I was very surprised to see the back cover when I did. There wasn't enough there to make me think ahhh, and so ...more
Marisa Martins
Apr 14, 2010 Marisa Martins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Amina é o protótipo de rapariga do século XXI: livre, independente, trabalhadora e dona do seu próprio nariz. Miriam é uma esposa de época, como mandam os bons costumes. Tem 3 filhos e, para além de cuidar da casa, ajuda na loja que mantém com o marido.
Um sorriso depois de 10 dias. Uma amizade. Uma necessidade de estarem juntas. Um amor possível?

É uma África do Sul racista e a viver os primeiros anos do Apartheid, que Sarif escolhe como cenário para um romance controverso e fora dos ditos padrõe
Jul 15, 2015 Danie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
Truthfully I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into before I read this book. I had read Shamim Sarif's book 'Despite the Falling Snow' first, and I found the writing in that one very good, so I wasn't too worried about being able to read it from that angle. And, I had seen the Teaser for the movie based on this book.

All that aside, reading this book was like when I saw the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and then read the book. I have no doubt that 'The World Unseen' movie will be great. The tease
May 08, 2014 Steph rated it liked it
A quick and easy read that takes a look at Indian culture in 1950s South Africa. There are some good, well thought out secondary characters. But if you're looking for an epic forbidden love story (or indeed, any sort of pronounced love story) this is not it. Most of the book is taken up by explaining the separate lives of Amina and Miriam with almost no contact between the two characters up until the very end. The attraction appears to pop up out of nowhere with almost no explanation and is simp ...more
Jen Vance
May 03, 2014 Jen Vance rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtqqia
One of the best books I have ever read. Love how it has multiple themes not just the lesbian one. It gives critical examples of apratheid, women, domestic violence, rape, and the lesbian piece is critical. I have recommended it to many people and hope they read it. It was a great novel and now I have two more to read by the same author.
Claudia Howard
Feb 06, 2014 Claudia Howard rated it it was amazing
The book I am reading is called the world unseen it is about two woman form India with two different lives, two different reasons to go to South Africa. One woman goes to be a wife a mother and to be force to her will to be a shop owner out in mild of nowhere in South Africa with no one to talk to but the slaves who she doesn’t understand. The other woman goes with her family to have better lives and jobs she owns and runs her own café with half African half Jewish man name Robert .were only peo ...more
Jul 11, 2015 YC rated it really liked it
Not your typical romance, but compelling until the very end. I like how Shamim showed us that having even heterosexual relationship is difficult because of skin colors and imagine how much more difficult it would be for a homosexual relationship. And I like that Miriam grew to be her own person, with love, she finally had the courage to have her own stand in her marriage and was willing to take the risk to work just so she could finally be herself, and in a way, accepted Amina's affection. I adm ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Tom rated it liked it
I'm think it's fair to say that I have never read a book in which the two protagonists are women of Indian heritage living in South Africa. The story is set during Apartheid in Pretoria and a small township just outside and the narrative informs the reader about the lives of two women, Miriam and Amina. Miriam exists within an unhappy arranged marriage and has three children. She seems to be set to settle for a life as a house-wife and a life of conforming to the expected position of a woman wit ...more
May 20, 2016 Bridget rated it liked it
It is clear that Sarif has something to say with the subject matter of this book. I am not sure that she gets to say it. The style is episodic and might work better as a tv show. I have seen the movie based on the book and the style of the film makes more sense once you read the book.

The strength is in the two female protagonists. Sarif's writing is downright evocative when covering the inner workings of Amina or Miriam. It is more difficult to glean the same level of motivation from Omar or ev
Sep 19, 2011 Lily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book. First off, Sarif is a great writer, with a wonderful talent for balancing hyperrealistic details and clear prose. Secondly, her subject is fascinating. I'll admit it, I didn't even realize there was a big Indian population in South Africa, so very informative, too. Not quite the strong GLBT focus that I was expecting, but the lovely prose more than makes up for that.
Jul 29, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, lgbt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wonderful story. I had a very hard time putting the book down. I love how Sarif combines history with relationships. Hoping to read all of her books soon. The ending left me hanging, but was a very great book!
Lucy Diamond
Aug 10, 2014 Lucy Diamond rated it really liked it
I don't feel particularly attracted to read fiction until I have the chance to a book that gave life to a movie I enjoyed.
It's narrative is simple, has enough drama to make you wonder wether they were happy or not.
It's an easy quick reading you all should read along watching the movie because it is was written and directed by the author. And movies and cinema are very different languages, therefore keep your mind and eyes open to better adapt a written story into images and once the movie has b
Sep 12, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-collection
Set in South Africa during apartheid with some interesting cultural interactions. A fast read, but it almost made me cry anyway.
Tan Sin tien
Dec 11, 2012 Tan Sin tien rated it it was amazing
Love how the author manages to touch on several topics with such grace. Inspiring and uplifting, surprisingly relatable.
Feb 17, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 24, 2011 Puja rated it it was amazing
Great quick read. Loved the story and the emotions between the characters.
Dec 22, 2013 Evelina rated it it was amazing
lovveeed it!
Stef Rozitis
Beautifully complex and heart-breakingly real. This book talks about gender, race, class and sexuality without making it simple (one of the worst abusive characters in the book is a woman of colour. While the white males on the other hand mean well but just casually wield their privilege to exploit or discount everyone else)

It looks at the nature of agency/resistance. It looks at love and how love is both a liberating force and a danger. It humanises and dehumanises (eg watch Jacob). Even though
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Shamim Sarif (born September 24, 1969) is a British novelist and filmmaker of South Asian and South African heritage. Her roots inspired her to write her debut novel, The World Unseen,which explores issues of race, gender and sexuality, which she later adapted into a film starring Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth. The novel won the Pendleton May First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award. She has also ad ...more
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