Strengths: It’s brutally honest, no holds barred.
Weaknesses: Some coarse language, some may find the topics covered difficult to read.
Why I read it: eARC sent to me by Tsar Publications (Canada)
Pages: 158 (ebook)
Publisher: Tsar Publications
Setting: Unnamed Western city
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
When I was offered the opportunity to read The Harem, I was struck by the brutal honesty of the idea – daughters of immigrants doing anything they could to escape the poor living conditions of their home. (Ironically, to their parents, these conditions were considered to be much better than anything they had experienced in their original home land). This honesty continues with the story of Farina and friends Sabrina and Imrana. These girls want out of their area (Peckville) and into parts of the city they’ve never thought possible.
The story is told by Farina in the first person and from the very start, we find that Farina isn’t the meek girl that her Bangladeshi mother wants her to be. Farina’s a university dropout who drinks, takes the odd drug, dresses provocatively and revels in doing the bad/forbidden. She has two good friends out for the same good time – Sabrina, who is making a lot of money at a bank and Imrana, who tries to juggle being good and bad.
Farina works in a deli, and lands the wandering eye of her boss. When Sabrina invites her to her ‘bank’, Farina and Imrana find that she’s being doing something different. Now Sabrina wants to set up a business (The Harem) – an escort agency. Farina’s desperate to make money and The Harem begins to become very, very successful. Then conscience starts to intervene – is Farina really the bad girl?
Some may find this book a little shocking. It’s blunt and to the point about a number of topics – prostitution, sex and drinking to name just a few. The language is also pretty coarse in places (I suggest you don’t leave this ebook open on your work desk). It’s scandalous and shocking, and feels a little naughty reading it. While I realise that this book may not be to everyone’s taste, I found it somewhat refreshing to read about ‘bad girls’ in their variations. Sabrina’s unrepentant, Farina’s wavering and Imrana’s easily mislead. Fazlul creates characters that are clearly flawed, but lovable to varying degrees. I cheered Farina on as she fell in love, admired Sabrina’s business sense and bit my nails as Imrana tried to make a decision.
The ending is probably the weakest point – not from a technical sense, but that it’s rather open. After Fazlul’s great portrayal of immigrant girls, looking at race and religion, it felt a bit of a let down from the crazy roller coaster ride that the rest of the book. But perhaps that was symbolic of Farina’s journey in general…