Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: The Book of Fate

This is what I look for when I read a book from an alien culture. An insider look into the culture, the people, the politics, the daily struggles of the common man (or woman), the pawns in the hands of the politicians.
Massoumeh is the common Everywoman. All the men in her life, unfortunately are decision makers who are on a higher moral ground by dint of not just being her father, or brothers, husband or sons, but because they are representatives of the forces of "Government". While the realm itself is a force to reckon with, playing with her loved ones, playing with her life at every step, at every turn.
Westerners are appalled at the treatment the teen Massoum receives at the hands of her brothers. They perhaps do not know that in many countries, Muslim or Hindu or otherwise, girls are still property, held in the fathers house under the protection of father and brothers to be transferred to the husband on marriage. At least Massoum's father was on her side. Many girls do not have that. Honour killings are still heard of (and maybe some not heard of) in many outlying areas in this part of the world.
While she marries into a household which encourages her to study and become independent, her husband, so modern, so enlightened, is still a representative of another type of government, maybe a revolutionary with ideals, but ideals which would not change anything once they come to power. At the end Massoum feels what is true for every common person, it does not matteer who comes to power- the ground reality remains the same. And even with vaulted ideals, one group would not stop from decimating the other group. This is what massoum does not understand. Hers is the understanding of a bright young mind, unaccustomed to politics.
While the book is gripping till the end, the last few chapters is a let down. It becomes too predictable and then the conflict between mother and sons are not well etched out. At least the son who has been exposed to western cultures should have said something different. But he still says the same thing as the traditional son does. Also, why does Massoud, the sensitive, kind hearted son, not understand his mother more? It is not quite fathomable. It is as if after building all the characters for 9 tenth of the book, in the last tenth part Sainee lets go of what they stand for. Massoum however, does not disappoint. I would be more satisfied if she took the decision on her own accord, rather than be bullied into it by her sons. She ends up being the pawn even at a personal level and not just on a metaphorical level.
However, it is a book which everyone interested in different countries and cultures should read. And this cover does not suit the book... a different cover showing a landscape or rebellion or even a painting should have sufficed. Massoum is not a face, especially not this face.