Our Little Book Club Reviewed – The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Our Little Book Club Reviewed – The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

This week our little book club meet for another night of friendship, wine, and literary discussion. It was also the first time we had one of our members attend via Skype (with BYO wine) which I think speaks volumes about how enjoyable book club evenings are, as well as the book itself. This month our little book club reviewed – The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi. We had planned to discuss this novel at our annual Christmas dinner but conversation got the better of us. So we held off until now.

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

I found Hashimi’s novel a compelling read. I was drawn into the story of the two women – Rahima and Shekiba, whose parallel lives are separated by a century. I found this a sad and at times distressing read, I hoped for the best but feared the worst. While the story jumps back and forth between the two women, Hashimi weaves this together well without confusing her reader, keeping them engaged with her easy and accessible style of writing.

As I was reading The Pearl that Broke its Shell, I couldn’t help think of the other books I had read set in Afghanistan such as The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, or The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman. While similar in some respects, Hashimi’s novel provides a different view and insight into life for women in Afghanistan, particularly at the turn of last century.

The world depicted in The Pearl that Broke its Shell is far removed from my own, portraying a world of injustice, were women still fight for the freedoms I take for granted.  At the same time Hashimi tells the universal story of the struggle against all odds, as well as the inner strength of her characters as they fight for freedom.

“The human spirit, you know what they say about the human spirit? It is harder than a rock and more delicate than a flower petal.”
― Nadia Hashimi, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

This was a great book club book, offering up lots of topics for us to discuss. We found the tradition of “bacha posh” fascinating; the general acceptance within society of a custom that allows girls the same freedom as boys seems so at odds with the general treatment of the women within the novel. The Pearl that Broke its Shell also questions the idea of accepting your naseeb or destiny, pushing the characters to take control of their own fates, sometimes with devastating consequences.

“The hell with naseeb. Naseeb is what people blame for every thing they can’t fix.”
― Nadia Hashimi, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

Our Little Book Club Review - The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

My favourite quote

“Every bit does some good. I’m lucky I know how to read. It’s a candle in a dark room. What I don’t know, I can find out for myself. It’s easier to fool someone who can’t figure things out on his own.”
― Nadia Hashimi, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

The Pearl that Broke its Shell deals with many confronting issues facing Afghanistan women today.  However, Hashimi left me with hope at the end … I could imagine a better life for Rahima and Shekiba. So, after our little book club reviewed – The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, would I recommend this as a book club read? You bet!

Have you read The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi?  What did you think?

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