by Anna Halabi
Um Hussam can’t find a suitable bride for her son, testing each candidate’s sight, hearing and reading skills, occasionally cobbing a feel. Jamila’s husband Hassan can’t forget his deceased wife, until she makes sure he never mentions her again. Rami can’t help but wonder whether his new bride is a natural beauty or a talented surgeon’s masterpiece. Khadija’s maid stabs her in the back while Rana’s husband Muafak can’t find the right excuse to avoid a fight.
These and several more stories humorously illustrate the everyday life of married women in Syria, shedding some light on the charms and difficulties of the Syrian culture and customs.
My knowledge of Syria is poor and comes mostly from the BBC News when something terrible has happened, so when Anna Halabi gave me the opportunity to read her book “Syrian Brides” I was happy to give it a go and see what I could learn.
This is a collection of 11 short stories exploring the everyday life of women in Syria. Some are married and love their husbands, some a preparing to marry and some rather wish they hadn’t.
I particularly enjoyed the second story, ‘Nobody’s Bride’ which has a strong comedic tone and is far less serious than than the first, ‘The Nostalgic Groom’ was good fun too. In fact, each of the stories has hints of comedy within, revealing the culture and varied personalities of Syrian men and women.
“I watched that girl swallow an entire plum. The whole thing! Like it was a sip of water! It was like I was staring at a hippopotamus at the zoo devouring its lunch.”
All of these stories are short and many read anecdotally, but what I enjoyed the most was that most, if not all, of the stories had some kind of moral.
I didn’t think I’d have enjoyed this collection as much as I have done, but I’ve been entertained and educated and would recommend giving this first time author a try.
Overall rating: “Syrian Brides” is an entertaining peek into what life is like for women in Syria. Through 11 short stories, the author covers a range of marital problems while also highlighting the warmth and compassion a relationship can bring -it’s 4 stars from me.