Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Arab Season
by Alisa Ahlam
Rating:  3/5


Pages: 296 pages (kindle edition)
Publisher:  ISILINO
Publication Date: first published in 2011
ASIN: B00608T6RE

Summary (via Goodreads)

Secrecy is their byword, family honour, their cross to bear.

If you were a Muslim girl wanting to keep family honour, but loving Western ways, how would you play it? With one foot in each culture, Hani thought she and her friends knew how. They enjoyed what they shouldn’t. They paid a price. One of them paid with her life.

Zuleka’s father, an Imam, keeps his household of girls under strict rule. All have to wear the hijab with abaya or other forms of loose fitting, modest clothing. To him, Zuleka is the epitome of a dutiful daughter. She dreads him discovering her other life.

Hamdi has the most freedom, abandoned by her mother and discounted by her father; she’s loose cannon with attitude.

Ayan manages her life well, respecting her faith and culture, whilst enjoying some light relief.

And, Hani? She can trick her hypochondriac mother, but her radical brother poses her problems.

They enjoy life, but are on a crash course to disaster!


The Arab Season is a story that follows the lives of four young Muslim women: Hani, Ayan, Hamdi and Zuleka, as they take on the challenges and issues facing modern Muslims in contemporary London.

Starting as carefree, untroubled and free to enjoy themselves the girls quickly learn that their rebellious antics have consequences with Zuleka quickly finding herself abandoned and isolated from her community. I actually found her character to be the most interesting personally based on the long journey she takes personally within the book, trying desperately to keep a firm grasp on her dreams when all else is against her.

All four characters develop and change within the book, with each representing a different aspect of not only Muslim culture but also of female culture in itself. Ayan is traditional, the good girl who follows the rules. Hamdi is rebellious, the polar opposite of Ayan, forever trying to be individual and break away from the crowd. This leaves Hani and Zuleka, both living in the middle of Ayan and Hamdi, who despite some differences in the beginning, find themselves clinging to one another by the end of the book, pushed together more by understanding and pain.

The relationship between the four girls develops and changes throughout the book and for me personally is what I find the most interesting area to read. As a non-Muslim, this book was an insight in the incredibly intricate faith and culture of Muslim people, mainly in this case the female side of it. I would recommend this book happily to anyone interested in learning a bit more about this. Although the story is based on contemporary faith, the book still reveals a great deal about how deep routed Muslim culture is for it's followers, something that I believe is most likely relevant for many other cultures, if not all of them. But for Muslim culture in particular, I think this book shows clearly the battle some girls in contemporary life are going through, wanting to express themselves without crossing the line of shaming their families and culture. I think the writer portrays this message beautifully.

My only issue with this book has nothing to do with it's literary content, but rather with the editing of the book which is the only reason I couldn't mark it higher. Whilst reading I found various issues in terms of grammar and punctuation which I felt I needed to mention in order for this to be a fair review. However I would like to mention that despite the errors I didn't feel I couldn't enjoy the book. On the contrary I actually really enjoyed this book and found myself wanting to keep reading to find out what happens in the end, only to be shocked by tragedy. I have a close relationship with a couple of friends myself, so for me, the ending hit home.

So, to finish this review I would say;

I definitely recommend The Arab Season as it portrays a story that encompasses friendship, love, betrayal, sorrow, tragedy and newfound hope. Everything you could possibly want in a book. 

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