This autobiography is as interesting for its behind-the-scenes account of the political developments in the history of modern Pakistan as for the pers...moreThis autobiography is as interesting for its behind-the-scenes account of the political developments in the history of modern Pakistan as for the personal story of a battered woman in an abusive marriage. Of course the two narrative threads are inextricably linked, as Tehmina Durrani discovers by the book's end: Her husband is a master manipulator of susceptible women's emotions, as well as a power-seeking schemer who's willing to make deals with the enemy, as long as that will further his political ambitions. The book is well-written and well-edited, on the whole. The story progresses naturally and without over-explication or too much introspection. Sometimes though I wish I knew more about Tehmina's background. She came from a privileged elite family of Pakistan, and her upbringing differs greatly from the average Pakistani girl - summer holidays in her family villa in Marbella included. At one point it is stated she attended a Catholic school for girls, but we don't get any information about the kind of education she received there, and how that may have shaped her, positively or negatively. Towards the end of the book she says "I returned to painting" but it's actually the first time we read of her hobby. And when she meets the intellectual circles of Pakistan through the friendship with a female journalist, she mentions her interest in Freud and psychology, but again this is the first we hear of her intellectual pursuits. It's only when her husband is in prison and she must take an active role in politics that she begins to have opinions of her own that she is able to realize she has brains and therefore power of her own - at least that's how her narrative reads. Regarding her dysfunctional relationship with her husband and her inability to temper his rage, or to break free from it, it seems to me that her family is more at fault, than her own personal shortcomings. She struggles to do her best to uphold the ideals her family and her culture value, at a heavy cost to her own well-being, but time and time again she is betrayed by her closest kin, especially her younger sister and her mother. Her faith in her family is repeatedly shattered and yet she still can't see that they're her captor's willing accomplices. Paradoxically - and yet it makes perfect Freudian sense - it's only when her own father betrays the traditional morals, and the family's facade of propriety, in taking a second wife and finally doing his own thing, that she is able to make that final and definite emancipation. If her weak-willed father could do it, then so could she. It's a pity then, that her father disowns her for this, when the two of them are so much alike in temperament.
The epilogue, which includes developments in Tehmina's story following the first publication of her book and the response by Pakistani society and her family, is not too encouraging. Also, it doesn't mention that she eventually re-married, again to a politician from a family with feudal power and standing. I wonder if she did this out of social expediency (a guarantee of protection from her ex-husband and the violence the Khar clan continue to indulge in with impunity) or because she still cannot resist men with prestige and influence. One bright note is the case of her step-daughter's modeling and acting career that is keeping the spotlight on the issue of patriarchal excesses. (less)
This was a fairly quick and easy read. Under normal circumstances I would say there's something lacking in the novel; the plot is somewhat simple (yet...moreThis was a fairly quick and easy read. Under normal circumstances I would say there's something lacking in the novel; the plot is somewhat simple (yet not simplistic, for there are several social issues pertinent to present-day India woven into the storyline). My main criticism is that the book is apparently lacking a central theme or crisis to be resolved. Also, the "Wikipedia moments" where certain customs or cultural facts are explained in detail distract from the storytelling. However, I've been so caught up in a family issue these past six months I actually found that reading this book calmed and relaxed me. The writing flowed easily and I let myself go with it.(less)
As I was getting ready to write the journal entry for this book, my gaze fell on the 'recently released' book of th...moreOriginally reviewed September 2004:
As I was getting ready to write the journal entry for this book, my gaze fell on the 'recently released' book of the moment - The Feng Shui Junkie
Well, the way I understand it is that the forces of nature are out there - in nature, not in symbolic objects strategically placed in one's living environment - and this is what Barry Lopez is writing about in this two-part book. Sense nature, live it, as he did. (less)