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Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review: Promising Azra by Helen Thurloe

Promising Azra
available at fishpond.co.nz



I won an uncorrected proof copy of this book from Allen and Unwin via my first Goodreads giveaway (thanks!)

Wow! What a powerful story.  I was engrossed after the first few pages.

Promising Azra is an extremely apt title, Azra is both promising and promised.  At 16 years old she has her whole life ahead of her.  Talented at chemistry, a good pupil, she has her sights set on University.  However, Azra moved to Australia from Pakistan when she was 12, her parents still follow the customs and traditions from home. Her Uncle dictates what happens in their extended family including arrangements to ensure that Azra’s future marriage will benefit “the family”.

Azra is aware that she may be “promised” at some point. She has seen it happen to other girls at school, but none of her immediate family have mentioned marriage yet. Her immediate problem concerns finding a way to be permitted to attend a chemistry competition which involves mixed-sex teams and out- of school hours.

The book is aimed at young adults but as a much older “Anglo” I was fascinated.  A nice touch by the author included the chapter titles, which were all definitions of chemistry terms and hinted at what was to come. Without giving too many details away, the author uses Azra’s thoughts and feelings to describe how difficult it is to be the “dutiful” daughter immersed in a multi-cultural school in Australia.  We also see how different Azra’s life is compared to her brother's, how teachers might not even consider the difficulties involved in attending a competition run outside school for someone like Azra.  Ultimately we see what happens when a young girl is promised to someone they have never met.  The author does find a few ways to illustrate the arguments around the benefits of arranged marriages but what happens to Azra goes way beyond the boundaries.  The issues that this story highlights are numerous and enormous.

Great characters, a terrific read, and a story that should provoke much discussion.  Highly recommended.

This review has also been posted on Goodreads.com

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