Monday, July 2, 2007

Cry of the Dove by Fadia Faqir - Book Review

Cry of the Dove ARC
Author Fadia Faqir
HarperCollins Canada September 2007
UK Title - My Name is Salma May 2007
Website - Fadia Faqir

I chose to read this novel because it was about a young Arab (Bedouin) woman living in Exeter in England. Exeter is the same city that some of my ancestors came from. I also wanted to see how Arab women are portrayed within their own culture. Are they strong women? Are they making choices to break with tradition? Are they choosing to live their own lives? Do they want to live like western women? Or do they still think the west is too permiscuous?

I really wanted to read this novel all the way through, and I did get to page 180. I've had to think hard to figure out why I couldn't finish it. But there were two things that stopped me. The first reason is - Salma is far too much like I used to be.

The main character Salma grew up very sheltered, in her home village - just like me. She works a goatherd, playing the reed pipes and looking after the family goats. She does the normal teenage things, teases a local young man, has sex, and becomes pregnant. When she tells him, his reply is so typically chauvinistic, I really cannot read any further.

I swallowed hard and then said "I'm pregnant".
His cockiness collapsed and he turned into a man troubled with a bent back and a trembling voice, "You cannot be. How?"
"I don't know" I replied and stuffed the last morsel of bread into my mouth.
When he finally looked up at me he was a different man, His brown eyes burning with anger rather than desire. He cleared his voice and said "You are responsible. You have seduced me with the yearning tunes of your pipe and swaying hips." he said and he raised his arm about to hit me..."I've never laid a finger on you, never seen you before, do you understand?" he said, wrapped his kufiyya around his head like a mask and walked off into the dust.

Salma is rushed into hiding, and kept under "protective custody" for 5 years!! Her baby daughter is born and immediately given to her family to raise. Salma remains a prisoner.

Eventually word arrives that her family are still looking for her to kill her - to revenge their honour. So she is spirited off to England. Once there Salma is dumped in a foreign country with a fake document (a British passport that says her name is Sally, not Salma) and an entirely new culture.

Salma has to learn how to not attract attention, which is rather difficult to do when she insists on wearing a veil. She has to learn a new language, and also how to talk to other people, both men and women. Fortunately she has one friend - a Pakistani girl named Parvin. Parvin teaches Salma everything she has to know, to survive. Salma gets a job as a tailors assistant, and she enrolls as a part time student to study English Literature.

The second reason I couldn't finish this story is because of the narration. It is narrated in the first person by Salma. The narration jumps backwards and forwards between her present life in England and her previous life in the Levant. The jumps are abrupt and they happen without warning. In my opinion they interrupt the flow of the story and every time they happened, I had to make a mental shift to the new time frame (past or present) and then carry on reading. There is no warning of any time jump. No line break, no asterix break, nothing. It is very disconcerting. Eventually it became annoying. I stopped reading at page 180, when Salma told her boyfriend she was pregnant.

I used to be naive and innocent just like Salma. And I was taken advantage of a number of times. The difference between me and Salma, is that I learnt my lessons, I learnt to say NO, and I learnt not to get into those situations again.

This is Fadia Faqir's third novel. She is Jordanian-British and lives in Durham, England.

1 comment:

Carrie K said...

That is just terrible! What a way to have your pregnancy treated.

I'm glad to hear that you fared better than the character in the novel did.