The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
By Nadia Hashimi
Published by Hapercollins
Available as a paperback and ebook
Nadia Hashimi's extraordinary debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, looks into the harrowing experience of being a woman in Afghanistan through the eyes of two young women, both living a century apart as they try to take control of their destinies.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a book about women who already have a pre-defined role in society, as dictated to them by men, but both protagonists dare to dream about a life beyond child rearing, and being invisible from the outside world.
The Taliban rule the streets, controlling all of the lives of the people in the village. Rahima, along with her sisters, rarely leave the house along with their mother. Their father, a drug-addict, and local fighter, is bitter because all of his children are girls and their punishment for not being boys is to be banned from school. But there is hope in the ancient custom of bat posh, which allows Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she hits puberty, and is ready for marriage. Her freedom - playing in the street, going to school, running errands, having a job is juxtaposed against her sisters who can only venture to the edges of their courtyard and must do the housework.
Yet Rahima is not the first girl in her family to adopt this tradition. Alternating chapters look at Rahima's great-great-grandmother, Shekiba, an orphan who goes from barely surviving on her family's farm to being a guard at the King's palace. She must stand her ground and fight for what she believes in no matter the cost.
Hashimi does hold back in The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. This book looks at child marriage, the pressures of religion on everyday life, domestic violence and the struggles of women for freedom. The restrictions and limitations place on women is juxtaposed by the freedoms of the male characters - powerful, dominate, violent. At times this is an uncomfortable read but these themes can't be sugar-coated and be all fluffy for the audience. This book is thought provoking (I know this is a cliche but it really is) and is makes you appreciate life a little bit more.
This is a gripping, and inspiring read. I found The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was a real eye opener into the treatment of women in Afghanistan. This book is about survival, and its an essential read for everybody.
You can buy The Pearl That Broke Its Shell from your favourite bookshop.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy.