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Review: Revenge by Taslima Nasrin

August 9, 2011

Title: Revenge
Author: Nasrin, Taslima
Translator: Moore, Honor
Length: 200 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Feminist Press / 2010 
Source: Borrowed from Carina
Rating: 4.5/5
Why I Read It: I first heard about the book via Maphead, and requested a review copy but never received it. Carina offered to lend it to me a few weeks ago and I jumped at the chance to finally read it.
Date Read: 20/06/11

This book shows how jealousy and mistrust can drive a wedge into a relationship, and how expectations and assumptions don’t always turn out to be correct. Jhumur marries her sweetheart Haroon, excited after their fantastic courtship for more of the same. Instead she becomes an almost slave to the family, not allowed to leave the house, not allowed to stay in close contact with her friends and family, and forced to cover herself completely. When she becomes pregnant shortly after marriage her husband’s jealousy comes out full force and he refuses to believe the baby is his, forcing her into an abortion. The rest of the story follows her after this act, trying to live with the consequences and in some way get revenge on her husband for his mistrust of her.

Nasrin in this book does a really great job of highlighting the clash of cultures between the old and the new, and the ways in which culture shock can set in for those forced to adapt from one to the other. Jhumur is shocked to learn how she is expected to live and the myriad rules and restrictions placed upon her, especially given how she was raised and how Haroon treated her prior to the marriage. Her family is shocked to see her accept the role she is given in her new family and adapt to it.

The book also takes on jealousy and mistrust and the ways in which they can ruin a relationship and come between people, causing irreparable harm. Through this we see the ways in which Jhumur is damaged, the ways that the mistrust scars her and causes her to doubt herself, and to retaliate.

As I sat there in the bathroom, taking stock of the past few days, my mind throbbed with scattered, panicked thoughts. Everything was topsy-turvy. My life was being pulled down into a tornado, a gathering storm. I had managed pretty well, I’d always thought. But what I felt coming toward me was utterly unfamiliar, and I was too young to understand that my husband’s irrational behavior had nothing to do with me, that he was in the grip of a monstrous obsession of which not even he was conscious. I had never felt such confusion and fear. (page 68)

The story is subtitled A Fable and it really is in a way. It highlights the dangers of jumping into anything to please another. It highlights the danger of jealousy. It gives women options on how to take revenge. Highly recommended as a really great and thought-provoking book about the place of women and what can happen when a strong, independent woman is treated poorly.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2011 8:11 am

    I do love the premise.Beautiful quotes and an an interesting title, I must admit.

  2. August 9, 2011 10:28 am

    I am intrigued as to why she accepted her role. I’ve seen it happen on a lesser scale in relationships, and it’s something I’ve never really understood.

    • August 9, 2011 9:18 pm

      Yes, it was very well written Trisha and sadly it is way too easy to accept these things sometimes. I think though in any story like this we’re always a bit on the outside thinking that the character is making a silly decision, but we can also see a bit why she does what she does.

  3. August 9, 2011 10:32 am

    Oh my, this one sounds harrowing! I would be interested in reading it to discover just how things work out in the end and how she considers her revenge. It sounds like she was pretty marginalized and abused, and I think it would be interesting to see how all that developed. Intriguing book, it seems!

  4. August 9, 2011 11:29 am

    I heard Nasrin talk when i was at grad school, and I thought she came across as a really strong and powerful person. I find her non-fiction more compelling than her fiction though. But this one sounds good–I hope the protagonist got her revenge!

    • August 9, 2011 9:19 pm

      Niranjana, I’m a bit jealous of you :) You seem to have met or at least sat on talks with so many fantastic people! What of her non-fiction would you recommend I try first? I definitely want to read more by this author.

      • August 9, 2011 10:40 pm

        :) I’m just kinda old…I heard her speak back in 2001/02, when I was a grad student. I still remember that talk though.
        I like her memoirs–try Amar Maybela (sp?), which describes her girlhood.

  5. August 9, 2011 3:14 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book. I’m interested in the husband’s character too – what makes him behave that way, after he was so different in their courtship? This is a new author for me, and thanks for the introduction!

    • August 9, 2011 9:21 pm

      It is well written and although unbelievable in the sense that the reader is left thinking “how could you think that?!?!” we can also see a bit why the husband acts that way. Very interesting Andrew!

  6. August 9, 2011 3:28 pm

    Like Andrew, I would want to know why the sudden change in the husband’s attitude? It’d be an interesting book.

  7. August 10, 2011 5:51 am

    Do you know, when you come to the UK as an immigrant, you have to pass a test, and it is quite interesting, because a lot of the questions seem very obvious, like: IS IT LEGAL FOR A MAN TO HIT HIS WIFE? and CAN YOU GO TO THE POLICE IF YOUR HUSBAND’S FAMILY MISTREATS YOU? I think it is designed to educate women about the routes of escape there are . . .

    • August 10, 2011 1:52 pm

      I am sorry Amy for not waiting for you to reply, but I couldn’t resist it :) I love that questionnaire!

    • August 12, 2011 8:31 pm

      That is really interesting Sarah, I had no idea! What a good idea. I would think it would definitely be a great start. And yes, I can see why Vishy :)

  8. August 10, 2011 11:40 am

    You would be surprised as to how this is such a common occurance in an Asian household, especially ones where the girl, marries and goes off and settles in a foreign land. Its sad but it happens. I personally know two people to whom such things have happened and how hard it was for them to get out of the relationship. You would be surprised at how easily people can enslave others, even in developed countries where rescue can be just a phone call away.

    Anyways, personally I think Nasrin always hits hard and puts it out there with her books and this I think is no exception. Will pick up a copy!

    PS: I ‘m so glad I came across this site. So glad!

    • August 12, 2011 8:33 pm

      I think it’s common in varying degrees all over the world Curious Cook, sadly. It is scary and getting out is much harder than people think. Sorry to hear that you have personal experience, knowing people who lived through similar experiences. I am definitely looking forward to more from Nasrin.

      And – Thanks for finding me!

  9. August 10, 2011 1:49 pm

    This looks like a wonderful book, Amy! I haven’t read a Taslima Nasreen book yet, but have heard that most of her books are wonderful and they caused quite a storm in her own country. In some places, courtship and marriage are two different things unfortunately, and this book seems to bring out that difference quite well. I personally can’t understand why marriage can’t be fun, if both the partners want it to be, and why it has to be like this. I am scared of reading this book, because I know it will break my heart, the way it seems to have broken Jhumur’s heart, but I hope she had her revenge in the end.

    • August 12, 2011 8:34 pm

      I am really looking forward to reading more by her after this one Vishy. I think marriage can be fun but it’s scary finding the right person – knowing how common it can be for things to so abruptly change after marriage makes it scary. And her revenge was definitely an interesting one!

  10. August 10, 2011 5:43 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful book, Amy. It’s horrible how Jhumur’s life is so devided into before and after!

  11. August 11, 2011 3:48 am

    This looks like a good read. Mistrust and jealousy ruins a relationship, I just wish couple couple could live and let live and focus on cementing the foundation of their relationship. Thanks for the recommendation!

  12. August 11, 2011 9:36 am

    It sounds like a lot of stories you hear in the news, but I don’t think I’ve read any fiction about it specifically, so will be putting this on my my very long list!

    • August 12, 2011 8:35 pm

      I can’t recall any others off the top of my head Sakura. Glad it made your list :)

  13. August 14, 2011 12:26 pm

    Glad you liked it too. I found it to be a short, well-written and powerful novel.
    Thanks for linking to my review !

  14. August 19, 2011 4:15 pm

    This book sounds fabulous and thought-provoking! I totally get that culture clash issue. I’ve been through it way too many times and am stuck in another one now. I need to check this book.

    • August 23, 2011 10:59 am

      Yes, always interesting to be in the middle of… sometimes worse than others though Aths. I hope you enjoy.

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