Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Shamed - Sarbjit Kaur Athwal

It began one normal, Friday afternoon. Just another family gathering at our house in West London.
 Perched on the sofa sat my mother-in-law. She stared proudly around, smiling, and then spoke. 

'It's decided then', the old lady announced 'we have to get rid of her.' 

'Her' was Surjit Athwal, Sarbjit's sister-in-law. She was lured to India, strangled and dumped in the fast- flowing  Ravi River, never to be seen again. 

Only Sarbjit seemed horrified by her fate. Surrounded by murderers, she knew she had to fight for justice - but how? And at what risk?

Published by: Virgin Books - Non Fiction
Year: Paperback 2013
ISBN: 9780753541548


Sarbjit tells her story of her strict Sikh upbringing, her training to be a good wife and her arranged marriage and her subsequent fight for justice for her sister in law when she is the victim of an honor killing.  Her sister in law Surjit is married to her husband's elder brother and the marriage is not a happy one.  Their mother in law decides that they need to rid the family of Surjit and plots to not only to discredit her name, turn her children against her but to arrange her murder in India and lie to her family by telling them she has run away with another man. .   


I grew up in London and went to school with Asian girls who would tell us about arranged marriages.   Some of our school peers had, had their marriages arranged from before they started school aged five.  Many of them would suddenly disappear from school for months on end, some would come back to tell us they had met their future husbands and a betrothal made between the two families by the time they were thirteen years old, others would disappear after their sixteenth birthdays and return to school married and in one or two cases already carrying their first child before finishing their exams.   

Shamed was a compelling story and a book I found I could not put down   It was a truly worthwhile read and I would certainly recommend it. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Women Who Went to Bed For a Year - Sue Townsend

The day her twins leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she's wanted to yell at the world, 'Stop I want to get off!' Finally, this is her chance. 

Her husband Brian, an astronomer having an unsatisfactory affair, is upset. Who will cook his dinner? Eva, he complains, is attention-seeking. But word of Eva's defiance spreads. 

Legions of fans, believing she is protesting. gather in the street, while her new friend Alexander the white-van man brings tea, toast and an unexpected sympathy. And from this odd but comforting place, Eva begins to see both herself and the world very, very differently. 

Published by; Penguin Fiction
Year: Paperback 2012
ISBN 978-0-141-39964-5

I had been recommended to read this book,  two or three people at work had read or were reading the book. Like countless of others I had read the Adrian Mole books penned by Sue Townsend when I was a child.  I had read the back cover and most importantly I had read a page at random and liked what I had read.  So I had followed by 3 criteria in choosing this book. 


Essentially Eva is a women who has always looked after her husband and her twins.  Suddenly her twins were flying the nest and heading off to university.  For some women that will fill them with pride at how well she has raised her child/children but for others as the chicks have fledged that empty nest becomes enormous and leaves a huge void and  you wondering what is your purpose now.    I  enjoyed  the book and could empathise with Eva's feelings of 'Empty Nest' and I thought her families response was typical of those who do not understand what it is like for some women once their children leave home.  Having built up the story and it's characters throughout the book,   I don't know how  I thought it would come to it's conclusion but for me I found the ending let the book down. In the past I have read more non-fiction than fiction and maybe that is why  This is of course just my opinion and others of you may well of interpreted the ending completely differently to me.  I would love to know what you thought.

All that said it would not put me off reading another of Sue Townsend book.