I don’t recall from where the recommendation to read this one arrived. I simply know that there were many appealing elements to this book which inspired my interest. Firstly, the title: the ordinary combined with the exotic, the implication of something exceptional blossoming in unusual circumstances, a slice of colour amid the mundane. Secondly, I was intrigued by the fact that the book’s context is fundamentalist Afghanistan under Taliban ruled yet it is written by an author whose name sounds incredibly Jewish and who purportedly spent years in Afghanistan researching this unlikely story.
So, I read the book. On one level I was not disappointed. It is a relatively interesting story and the backdrop is quite fascinating. However, I have read other books which were perhaps more intriguing and about the same topic – I am thinking of The Bookseller of Kabul which I found truly marvellous and also, perhaps of the works of Fatima Mernissi and Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. Nonetheless, there was some value in The Dressmaker of Khair Khana and the tenacity of the story’s protagonist is certainly admirable.
However, I found myself wanting to know more about the author and how she came to experience this story. I felt that the narrative evolved to be something that was more ‘sweet’ and even ‘cute’ rather than impressive or startling. The relationships between the individuals were too simple – perhaps this was a consequence of the constraints of the period, I am not sure. I was dissatisfied by the sweetness that I was left with, it didn’t seem appropriate at all. Interestingly, I was left with the same sense of disappointment upon reading I, Safiya.
I would be most interested to hear from others for whom this book is a first taste of life for women under the Taliban … perhaps my reading experience was destroyed by my knowledge?