Review: The Holy Woman by Qaisra Shahraz

I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – # 20 Read a book about religion (fiction or non-fiction).

The Holy Woman is the story of a beautiful young woman (Zarri Bano) growing up in modern day rural Pakistan. Unfortunate events transpire which result in Zarri Bano being pushed into (forced isn’t exactly the right word) becoming a holy woman, unable to marry and expected to devote her life to Islam. The book charts the life of Zarri Bano as well as members of her family and local villagers as they go about their daily lives. Despite the enforced celibacy that the role of holy woman demands, the book is essentially a love story between two main characters.

I have to say that I really didn’t enjoy this book – I struggled to get into it. I thought that the story had lots of filler with not much action, with a very predictable storyline. It was quite a long book and I think that cutting out a lot of the superfluous narrative would help to give the story more impact.

I got very annoyed at how hopeless the female character is portrayed – not in relation to they way that she is expected to obey her father and become a holy woman but that she falls so helplessly in love with someone she barely knows. I found the whole thing quite unbelievable and hugely over dramatic.

On a positive note, it was interesting to read a book from another culture. I knew nothing about the tradition of holy women so it was good to expand my knowledge in this area.

This is a long book with quite dull characters, petty squabbles and overblown gestures (lot of longing looks that pierce through to the soul etc.) If this is the kind of thing that you enjoy then this book offers a very different take on the usual boy-meets-girl story but it just wasn’t for me.

Overall rating: 4/10.

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