Five great books set in VALENCIA
Short stories set in Syria
19th October 2019
Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi, short stories set in Syria.
This is an eclectic collection of short stories to transport the reader to Syria, and they all feature women. The first, entertaining opening story is a rather beautiful woman using her wiles to plunder goods from some unfortunate shopkeepers.
The author moves through a full gamut of female experience and perspective, from domestic violence to treachery, frailty and cunning. They have a fable-like quality and each story is quite short.
In Examining The Bride the prospective mother-in-law does indeed examine the bride, Rania, observing her gait, her reading abilities and her overall suitability. Another mother-in-law Nejmieh is depicted as a cruel harridan and mistreats her daughter-in-law, Dalal, advocating a good slap. The intervention of the pharmacist helps Dalal find a new path to break the circle of abuse.
Other stories include a husband taking a second wife or in The Groom’s Excuse the wife tries to find out from him where her husband was having lunch on a specific day of interest… is he withholding information or is it more about shame? In The Counterfeit Bride it is the wedding night and by the time the bride has deconstructed herself, revealing her false nails, her hair extensions and the colour-changing contact lenses, the groom wonders who it is he has actually married. The Greedy Bride is exactly that, she cajoles and pouts at her husband to buy her more and more things but she is never really satisfied.. her husband cries with frustration: “By Allah, you women!… We give you a finger and you take the whole hand!”
In The Bride’s Cake Nadal Samakieh approaches a notary to request a divorce from her husband but his wise words bring about a different outcome than she anticipates.
The narrative is peppered with Arabic words and short phrases which all add to the atmosphere. There is an index but unlike a paperback book, on e reader it is difficult to access the translations at the back (you can’t easily flip back and forth with a digital book).
Many of the stories left me feeling rather depressed about the shallowness of some of the female characters, out-doing each other in looks, manipulating people and situations. These behaviours are all set within the confines of a very male dominated society where I guess it is necessary to be devious and cunning to make life a bit more bearable.
The setting is clearly Syria with mentions of Idlib and Aleppo but most of the stories take place within the home.
The author has a nice, easy-to-read writing style. Overall the book is quite short and more stories would have been welcome. An enjoyable read.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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