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Novel set in DURBAN

5th March 2024

The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan, novel set in DURBAN.

Atmospheric and lyrical search for the history behind an abandoned mansion

Novel set in DURBAN

The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan, is a lyrical insight into the lives of an eclectic group of people, some of whom have gathered to forget, others to be forgotten.

This is a story of many surprises, the first being the fact that there is no hint initially of its setting. It focuses on Akbar Manzil which, in 1932, was a majestic mansion on South Africa’s east coast but, more than 80 years later is a sad relic of itself, housing a motley crew of displaced people.

As a native South African, I initially didn’t recognise Durban as the location for the book – it was only the lyrical descriptions of the cuisine – spicy and fragrant – made famous by the city’s Indian population that took me back to my childhood.

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The two main characters – Meena and Sana – are from different generations and only share the magnificent house on the coast they both called home but their stories are interwoven in a clever and spellbinding way. Both are slightly lost souls – Meena who became the owner’s beloved second wife but was shunned by the rest of his family; and Sana who is motherless and whose father finds solace from his grief in cooking.

Sana is full of questions about the now ramshackle house she finds herself in and, with a little guidance from the resident djinn, slowly unravels its troubling history and that of the family who built it.

Colourful characters from the past, including the first wife, Jahanara Begum, to the matriarch, Madam-ji, intersperse with those from decades later. There’s Zuleika, who was a famous singer in her heyday but now keeps strictly to herself, to her nemesis Razia, and the housemaid Pinky and, finally, the Doctor, who ends up being the link to the history of the house.

Haunting and whimsical at the same time, this tale of love and loss will have you hooked until the end.

Val for the TripFiction Team

Catch our reviewer Val on Twitter X @valproctor and author on TwitterX @ShubnumKhan 

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