Review: The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

BAGHDADBaghdad, 1991. In the midst of the first Gulf War, a young Iraqi girl huddles with her neighbours in an air raid shelter. There, she meets Nadia. The two girls quickly become best friends and together they imagine a world not torn apart by civil war, sharing their dreams, their hopes and their desires, and their first loves. But as they grow older and the bombs continue to fall, the international sanctions bite and friends begin to flee the country, the girls must face the fact that their lives will never be the same again.

This poignant debut novel will spirit readers away to a world they know only from the television, revealing just what it is like to grow up in a city that is slowly disappearing in front of your eyes, and showing how in the toughest times, children can build up the greatest resilience.

Review

Can you imagine what it would be like if war broke out in your country? Imagine how your life would change. Think about what it would be like to watch neighbors disappear, buildings go up in smoke and armed soldiers start patrolling your streets. Sounds like a nightmare, right? However, this is a reality for many people around the world. In this story, we get to see the impact of war on the lives of residents of a small neighborhood in Baghdad.

I don’t think that I got to find out the name of the narrator. However, readers get to know that she is a young Iraqi girl. She introduces us to her neighborhood during the first Gulf War in 1991. Through her narration, we get to meet other residents of the town. Characters that stood out for me include Nadia, Ahmed, Uncle Shakwat, Biryad and Farouq. The narrator tells us a little about each of them and their lives. Their personalities were all so well developed that they come alive through the story. I found myself thinking of them like real people. You know how you get to know a character so well that you know what is and isn’t something they would do?

Life in Baghdad when there was peace was so beautiful despite the international sanctions. I enjoyed reading about the girls, their dreams for the future and life experiences. I couldn’t stop smiling when they first met boys that they liked. I loved all their adventures, their night escapades visiting the Baghdad clock, the dancing and description of Nadia’s love for the rain. I was enchanted by it all and so when the war came, I was also devastated by how it touched their lives, leaving havoc in its wake.

This wasn’t an easy read. The narrative uses different stylistic devices. I think what I liked most was personification of Biryad, the neighborhood’s popular dog. I am yet to read another book where a pet is so well developed as a character. I mean, I can still visualize the dog dancing at weddings. There were also instances where fantasy was used in the storytelling. Metaphors like the sinking ship depicting the destroyed city were also used in building the narrative. The story had a lot of cultural nuances like soothsayers were used to foretell oncoming changes. Dreams and reality were also interspersed throughout the story. I struggled through the first chapters but after that, I really appreciated the writing and how poetic it was.

This was a wonderful, well-written, thought provoking read. It was heartbreaking at the same time. I have no doubt that these characters and story will stay with me for long. Having read this book, I now really want to read A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The MC kept referring to this book in a way that made me curious enough to push it up my TBR. If you are looking for a coming of age story, well-written, thought provoking literary fiction then The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi is the book that you need to read.

 

 

 

Review: The Antenatal Group by Amy Miller @bookouture

ANC.pngWhen Mel’s boyfriend dumps her weeks before she is due to give birth, she’s not just coping with heartbreak – she’s also facing parenthood alone. What does she know about bringing up a baby solo? And who’s going to be there for her if it all goes wrong?

Newly single Mel is terrified when she walks through the door of her first antenatal class. Meeting all the other mums-to-be, she’s convinced she’s the only one who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

But as she gets to know the other parents in the group, she realises she’s not the only one with a not-so-perfect life and a non-existent birth plan.

As the weeks pass, and the group share their fears about babies, breastfeeding and birthing pools, Mel begins to believe that maybe she can make it as a single mother. But just when she thinks she’s got a handle on her life, her ex-boyfriend comes back begging for forgiveness.

Leaning on the support of her new friends, and as the due date looms, Mel has a big decision to make. Will she choose to forgive her ex and or can she find the courage to go it alone?

Review

Today I am taking a break from my usual dark thrillers to bring you my review of this delightful, masterfully narrated story about friendship and motherhood.

I am currently in an antenatal group. I don’t know if we will end up being life-long friends but I love the fact that we are in the same journey. Most of us are first time moms with very similar experiences and concerns. It’s just nice to know that you aren’t alone.

Amy Miller’s Antenatal Group is so wonderful and realistically portrayed. I love the fact that each character has a different back story. We had married ladies, pregnant girlfriends and even the single moms by choice. I loved all their differences because this is exactly something that you’d find in a real-life antenatal group.

The character development was so well done. Each of the women felt like people I could be friends with. I loved Mel and her quirkiness. I also like the fact that she provided so many laughs in the story but also helped us delve into complexities of relationships. I also really liked Erin and Lexi. Due to their ages, I could kinda relate with them more. Katy broke my heart a couple of times but I loved her. Rebecca was another character who I could sympathize with. These women found their way into my heart and I love that each of them had something that I could identify with.

This was an entertaining read but I love the fact that it was informative too.  It made me think about giving birth and the entire delivery process. It also helped me get over the idea of a perfect birth plan. I have had this idea that I will be this proper lady who will endure labor pains without making a sound or even having any facial expressions then I’ll push and voila…my baby will be here. Now I know better. Things don’t always go as planned and it seems you can’t really foretell how everything will go. It caught me off guard when one of the characters had her water break in a bus… yeah, in a bus. All the delivery stories had an impact on me. I was so anxious for each of the moms yet very excited for them too.

This book made me smile, laugh, cry and think about motherhood. Some of the ladies’ experiences had me giggling because they were so relatable. I kept saying out loud, ‘yeah, that happens to me too’.  There were number emotional scenes too, both sad and happy ones. I also enjoyed the range of themes from friendship to motherhood to postpartum depression. The Antenatal Group by Amy Miller is a wonderful, powerful, well-written book with characters who most women (and men too) will identify with.