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Novella set in 8th Century CE BAGHDAD

20th May 2024

The Djinn’s Apple by Djamila Morani, novella set in 8th Century CE BAGHDAD.

TR: Sawad Hussain

Novella set in 8th Century CE BAGHDAD

Djamila Morani has set The Djinn’s Apple in Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate in the eighth century. It was a time when the city dominated the Middle East: a time of philosophers and great learning but also when women were subordinate to men in every way. The narrator, Nardeen, is an ambitious young woman, with a dream to follow her father in studying medicine. Her happy life is changed forever when her family is murdered. She sets out to discover who wanted her father dead and to avenge her family. But she is patient and decides that she must wait until she has enough knowledge and the opportunity to take her revenge.

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The Djinn’s Apple is a novella aimed at young adults and it was a fun and absorbing read – once you get past the first few chapters. I found them confusing, with so many names and unfamiliar terms. There’s a glossary and editorial notes at the end of the book, which I recommend reading first. For example, the word Bimaristan, which at first I assumed was a country, turns out to be a sort of hospital-cum-centre of learning. Really I felt that a brief explanation in the actual text would have been helpful in the translated text. Once established in the book, the rest is fascinating and I’m sure will prove memorable.

Morani describes her characters well, ensuring that they are clearly defined but not caricatures, so that you can never be really sure who to trust. The whodunnit aspect of the story ensures you want to keep reading and the ending is satisfying. The atmosphere of the setting is also beautifully written, with descriptions of gardens, buildings and the city as it was at that time. There are beautifully poetic descriptions of Nardeen’s joy and sadness, especially the love she experiences once she meets a young doctor called Suhaib.

It might seem a strange thing to say about a book where a young woman wants to murder someone, but this is essentially a moral tale, with cautionary notes about politics and the enormous self-control required to survive among your mortal enemies. Hopefully not something most young people have to endure but intriguing, nonetheless. Recommended for young adults and older adults who enjoy folk tales or who are keen to learn a little about middle eastern history.

Sue for the TripFiction Team

Catch our reviewer Sue on TwitterX @SueKelsoRyan and on IG @SueKelosRyan

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