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The Bookseller of Kabul – novel set in Afghanistan

5th March 2013

The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad, novel set in Afghanistan

1844080471.01.ZTZZZZZZWe are really pleased to welcome book reviewer Ann Reddy to our blog. She is a regular contributor to the TripFiction site. Ann lives in Northumberland and enjoys fast sports cars, cooking for friends and walking her gorgeous border terrier. She has an eclectic taste in music from Mozart to Muse and reads most genres except sci fi, which her son adores but she doesn’t!

The Bookseller of Kabul is a revealing book written by Åsne Seierstad, a journalist who spent four months living with the bookseller, Sultan and his family, to experience life in Afghanistan.

It describes the country under government rule a few years after the Taliban had left. It also refers to the legacy of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

Åsne Seierstad has written what she observed, felt and thought about a typical family and their lives in a country that is torn apart from war, the buildings still bear the wounds with bullet and rocket holes in the walls. It is a poor country, families are scraping together a living and not always successfully. In the main, the book describes the lives of the women, their place in society, their struggles and the dominance they have to endure by their male relatives. Marriages are arranged, women are chastised and ostracised if they are seen with non-family males. Falling in love really is not an option, marriages are arranged and girls are often married off to much older men. The bookseller’s business is described. He is a true businessman trying to win big printing contracts but remembers books being burnt under Taliban rule. He expects total obedience from all of his family and also commitment from his sons to run the book shops.

I haven’t been to Afghanistan and don’t want to, but this country is in the news daily. We hear of the plight of women and families. This book is a piece of literature based upon real observation and therefore it has had quite an impact upon me. In particular the lives of the women. In fact it made me feel mildly angry in places reading about the overcrowding, the day to day chores of Leila who wants to be a teacher but is expected to be married off and is treated like a servant, cooking, washing and cleaning all day. The book brings the reality into your own life and brings alive what we already know by retelling family stories. If you would like to read a book that reflects family life in war torn Afghanistan then this is for you.

Ann Reddy for the TripFiction Team

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