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The Cry of the Dove Paperback – 10 Oct 2007
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"This is a beautiful book, written in vivid, tender prose....Salma is an unforgettable character, fierce and loving, veering between self-hatred and a sense of her own strength, touching and funny. Now I have finished the book, I miss her."
"Fadia Faqir's first novel, Nisanit, was decades ahead of its time. Her captivating new novel deals with the timeless themes of unforgiveness, friendship, and travel. Exquisitely woven, laced with humor and social awareness, it hums with the futility of erasing the past."
Left pregnant after an illicit love affair, Saalma, a young Bedouin woman from Hima in the Levant, flees her people to escape the honor killing waiting for her at the hands of her tribe and seeks asylum in England.
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All this is conveyed in outline in the first few chapters of the book, whose short sections read like picking through a pile of picture postcards spanning twenty years and two continents. Many of the descriptions are moving and effective, lyrical and stark by turns, and the jumping around in time should be familiar to all but the most literal readers. The real problem of the book is the lack of a consistent voice for Salma herself. Partly, this is a matter of language. We see Salma struggling to learn her first words of English; we see her later with enough knowledge to take an Open University course in literature; but the book is very vague about what happens to her in the middle. The flowing language of the first-person narrative clashes with the elementary mistakes that Salma makes in speaking, giving us little sense of her painful progress from one tongue to another.
In terms of factual description, though, the account of Salma's years in Exeter working as a seamstress and barmaid does have a certain grim realism, but it is rather stagnant. By contrast, Salma's memories of her early life begin to seem too impossibly idyllic, and she takes to romanticizing her future in a series of make-believe letters to various unreachable recipients, inventing a wish-fulfillment version of her life. The things that presumably really do happen in the last few chapters are scarcely more believable, unprepared and coming out of nowhere. And the very end of the book is like a slap in the face of the reader.
This is one of a number of recent novels dealing with the situation of Islamic immigrant women in Britain and the irresistible pull of the home country; some are even listed among the suggestions for further reading at the back of the book. In my personal order of preference, I would cite THE TRANSLATOR by Leila Aboulela, SWEETNESS IN THE BELLY by Camilla Gibb, THE SAFFRON KITCHEN by Yasmin Crowther, and BRICK LANE by Monica Ali. Despite its many incidental pleasures, I am not convinced that THE CRY OF THE DOVE adds enough to works like these to make it worth buying.
I found the descriptions of nomadic life among the Bedouins riveting. Likewise the descriptive detail regarding the lower middle class neighborhoods Salma frequents in London rivals that of Henry Miller or George Orwell.
A very competent writer and a great read.
by Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE.