on 28 October 2013
It is a multi-faceted, multi-layed story of love and loss, finding and loosing. Centreing on the forthcoming wedding of two rich cousins the action moves from Pakistan to England and back again. However the families in their grand houses have problems no amount of money can solve. A daughter lost by an impulsive marriage, an aunt who pines for a lost love and a bridegroom who has the biggest problem of them all. Underpinning the action is always the need to resolve the tension caused by conflict between traditional Pakistani Muslim values and modern Western ones
The families in the big houses are supported by a fascinating cast of villagers: Begum, the housekeeper, Zeinab, the quilt maker, Rukhsar, the goldsmith‘s wife and especially Masi Fiza, the laundry woman and purveyor of juicy gossip ,who always manages to be where the action is. Qaisra’s cast of characters keeps us enthalled as the action unfolds and the tensions between them all play out and are finally resolved.
on 25 October 2013
I first read the perennial favourite The Holy Woman almost a decade ago, so turned to Revolt with some trepidation. Could the author live up to a decade of built up expectation and match her first novel? Luckily for me (and anyone else reading her work), Revolt delivers.
What the author does so well is to create characters that are emotionally rich and believable. This is especially pertinent when you finish the novel, there is a burning desire to know what happened next to the characters.
Revolt itself is a multi-layered story about human relationships, set in Pakistan, but with universal themes of love, betrayal, sacrifice. The author keeps the polemics of that country at bay, mentioned when needed, but done in a way I imagine most people think about these issues. But most of all the story is a page turner, and kept me gripped throughout.
Revolt also incorporates the ongoing struggle between Pakistan and NRPs (non-resident Pakistanis), and really shows how lives whether in England, America or Pakistan, are sometimes only separated by a whisper.
I won't give away any spoilers, just to say the focus on the lives of the three sisters, Gulbahar, Mehreen and Rani, is very refreshing. Why shouldn't women of a certain age take centre stage, and why shouldn't they be allowed to inhabit realms of feeling? The power play is also very subtly done, and none of them is ever meek or ignored, contrary to popular opinion of Muslim women.
The flip side is also evident though, and a daughter's choices are less acceptable than a son's, but again done subtly.
The real story that moved me though was that of Rani. Stick with this character because you will be rewarded for doing so by the author, who is bold and courageous in how she deals with Rani's story.
A definite must for fans of The Holy Woman, A Suitable Boy, Burnt Shadows etc. and in some ways it has a ring of a Pakistani Downton Abbey to it, where both the rich and poor are given their moments to shine, filling the pages with a complex world. Revolt is definitely a novel I'm itching to read again and is highly recommended!
Like another reviewer I was very disappointed by this book. Having seen the author's profile and connection with the British Council, and read the reviews, I was expecting something much more meaty. This novel though, is nothing more than a Pakistani Aga saga with the occasional detour to Mills & Boon & EastEnders territory.
It is an easy read if you can get past the dreadful dialogue and the pretty poor quality of the writing. The author clearly loves her adjectives and adverbs - they are over-used to an enormous degree. I wouldn't mind so much if they had contributed to a poetic style of writing, but the prose style is often inelegant, even ugly. I felt there was also too much telling and not enough showing in the course of the narrative which in part I think contributed to the stilted dialogue. I became increasingly irritated by the number of times people "panted" or "bitterly retorted", and if I hear the phrase "portable bed" anytime soon I think I will scream. Mouths fell open on a regular basis too. At times I really struggled with the urge to throw the book at the wall - not a good move with a kindle.
The author appears incapable of punctuating dialogue correctly although I would have expected an editor to pick up on this. Far too frequently I found myself re-reading sections because the absence or incorrect use of punctuation meant it wasn't clear who was saying what or whether the words following direct speech were tags or independent sentences. Another irritant was the over-use of the exclamation mark. Both these factors distracted me from the story.
The disappointing thing was that although there was the potential to explore, in a meaningful way, areas such as arranged marriages v marriages for love, caste & class relationships, emigration and the sense of displacement, this opportunity was lost in a haze of melodrama. What we have left at the end is simply a family saga, and not a very convincing one either. I was unconvinced by most of the characters and didn't believe aspects of the storyline. For instance, the relationships between servants and their employers just didn't ring true. Nor did the degree of familiarity between the sexes seem to fit with a rural village in Pakistan, where women wear the chador: there is little feel of a society where women are often segregated.
I have dithered between awarding this two stars or three but I feel that three stars is a little on the generous side - probably 2.5 stars. I cannot envisage reading any of the author's other books or looking out for new ones.
on 17 November 2013
Quaisra Shiraz has created some memorable characters in her most recent novel, "Revolt". Her pen presents such a vivid picture of village life that you feel as if you are living there and engaging with the characters, who come from many and varied stations in life. Shiraz is particularly strong in defining how individual decisions can affect wider cultural attitudes, and the message of cross-cultural tolerance is very welcome in this age of globalisation. But most importantly, the book is full of page-turning excitement deftly plotted, and you are likely to miss the depiction of a world unfamiliar to many readers, drawn with particular sympathy for the lives of the village women, when this engaging book comes to an end.
on 14 February 2014
Wow, where do I start with this lovely, long novel? Complicated and large in scope, Qaisra Shahraz’s Revolt had me hooked and drawn into the plight of a large family in the rural village of Gulistan in Pakistan. Centred around three sisters, Rani, Mehreen and Gulbahar, and their children and servants, Revolt chronicles the twists and turns of marriages and secret loves, and the ripple effect the choices of the children have on their mothers and fathers and the rest of the village.
I’m not going to lie, Revolt is greatly complicated and there’s a large list of characters. At the start, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who but once I finally got into the swing of it, keeping tabs on relationships between different characters became easier. There were also some tough themes to deal with in this book, like women’s rights, family values and tradition, and as a Western woman I found some of these issues to be frustrating, particularly the issue of arranged marriages.
Shahraz’s writing is very rich and warm, sprinkling words and phrases in the native tongue throughout the book. Don’t let the foreign language put you off; there is a glossary in the back of the book to help with translations!
This was one of those books that I read slowly, pausing in my reading to put the book down and actually reflect on what I’d read. I think I might have even had a dream or two about the characters -it’s that realistic and affecting. I really didn’t want the book to end. I didn’t want to close the cover on Gulbahar, Mehreen and Rani. This book was just rich – in setting, in characters, in everything. There’s no other word to describe this book.
If you’re looking for a total cultural immersion, Revolt is definitely the perfect book for that. I also have Shahraz’s The Holy Woman on my shelf to read and I’m greatly looking forward to it.
on 21 November 2013
'On the surface Revolt is an involved, intricate story that had me laughing one minute, tearing up the next. I wasn't expecting to feel as attached to the characters as I inevitably did as their lives and situations unfolded - it's impossible not to sympathise on some level with each and every character. However, underneath the reflex reactions and emotions, this book really taught me something and opened my mind to new perspectives of struggles regarding sexism, racism, and classism.' A few lines from my review - read it in full at [...]
on 7 February 2015
I found the beginning of “Revolt” quite complex, introducing the setting, many characters and their background on the first couple of pages, which I found hard - at the same time it gives this story a good pace. It took me some time to remember all the characters’ names but I felt like I could picture the setting of the story immediately and I was curious what would come next - I didn’t want to stop reading.
English is my second language and I love learning about other countries and finding out about their customs and languages. I found the use of Urdu words in the story a wonderful idea – this makes it feel very authentic to me and at the same time I’m learning some expressions from a different language while reading the book. The glossary at the end of the book is a great help.
I really enjoyed reading “Revolt”. It is very entertaining and at the same time highlights intercultural issues and views from different angles, opening eyes (to characters within the story but also to the readers) on how prejudice can be overcome. I can also recommend this novel to anyone who likes reading love stories!
Also a must read: Qaisra Shahraz’s other novels, “The Holy Woman” and its sequel “Revolt”, as well as her collections of short stories.
on 14 February 2014
This is a superb book, with many layers telling stories of love and loss. It's the story of three sisters and despite the wealth in the family, the problems they encounter can't be solved by money. It's set in England and a fictional village in Pakistan and the characters are great, funny at times, maddening and totally unforgettable. As the wedding of two cousins approach, it illustrates how moving and perilous it can be when everyone knows everybody else's business. What I especially enjoyed was the contrast between life in Pakistan and life in Emgland, the cultural differences as well as the fundamentals we all have in common.
It's a book that made me giggle, laugh, cry and sob! It's also one that's been passed around friends and family with everyone loving it. The author is an award winning novelist (The Holy Woman, Typhoon and Revolt) and I'm glad to hear she is writing more books. This is a modern day classic and one you won't want to put down.
on 21 July 2014
Qaisra Shahraz brings you into a world that you have most likely never visited or known. She sets up photographic shots of details that morph open into cinematic scenes: you can feel the hot sun on your skin; hear the chatter around the table; and see the anguish and laughter etched into characters that become as familiar to you as people you know. And although you feel you are there, you must watch, listen, and wait to see what will happen next.
Revolt is a family saga woven through a diversity of stories and many people, and this is where the author (also a talented scriptwriter) really shows her skill in bringing characters to such fullness of life, you can see the roundness of their flesh and hear their voices.
Traversing from England to small town life in the fictional village of Gulistan in Pakistan, the different story strands all interweave to the central point of focus; three wealthy sisters, their children and servants, and the effect of choices that reverberate on family and outsiders.
Many emotions and beliefs are explored through the themes of family drama, love, loss, abandonment, desire for reconciliation, and age-old and contemporary issues of conflict; political and religious chaos and Pakistani Muslim values in juxtaposition to the modern West. The intrusion of the West comes via the necessity and desire of immigration. Bringing notions of romantic love, modern values shake traditional beliefs and customs when East meets West. The resentment and envy of those left behind is a relative parable to those who dared to leave and now find themselves straddling two worlds in which they find they belong to neither - and the riches that it brought them also brings them down.
Having been compared to Jane Austen and Isabel Allende, Qaisra Shahraz has established her own combination of parody, magic realism, wit and charm. She writes beautifully, but accessibly, and precisely details intricate outlines of human character and behaviour. This is an author who should be on everyone’s Books to Read list.
on 23 April 2014
This review was first published at M's Bookshelf - http://mssbookshelf.blogspot.be
Wow. What a novel.
It took me a while to get into the story. I found the amount of Urdu words used in the book very confusing at first. A lot of characters were introduced in the first few chapters, with (for me) difficult names, all of which made it a bit harder to really get absorbed into the story and the character's lives. But once you got used to some of the Urdu words and the characters, it became such an amazingly intriguing read.
One of the great things about Revolt is the very large amount of characters, and their diversity. One big story with all those individual stories intertwined... Such a "rich" book. Not only are the characters very different from one another, they each got a different story to tell and the book introduces so many different themes... You never get bored!
Qaisra Shahraz is obviously a very talented story teller and she transported me to another, unknown, part of the world.
Revolt is an amazingly intriguing and rich story. It brings so much diversity in both characters and themes. Qaisra Shahraz introduces you to a new world and transports you to a little Pakistani village, while making you forget the world around you.