Sudan: From Riches to Rags – Almost

Another big African country with a turbulent recent history, dictatorship, wars, and many internal conflicts. Until fairly recently Sudanese literature has been oral stories and narrative poems passed on from generation to generation. This African tradition fascinates me, since there must be millions of stories, but sadly most seem to be lost to us not living in the village, region, or country. Luckily there are several novels written by Sudanese authors nowadays, and the one I chose for my reading challenge was Minaret by Leila Aboulela.

At first I was disappointed. After reading a few chapters I thought the book was going to be about giggling girls gossiping about others, shopping, finding the right husband, and all these things that matters on the surface. I do not read this kind of women’s fiction because I find it to be utterly boring. I was pleasantly surprised while reading on to see that the book changed quite fast and in fact it was a pleasant read.

Najwa is an extremely privileged young woman living in Khartoum. Her father is an important government man, a government well-known for corruption and other questionable things. They have many Ethiopian servants at home, and life is easy. Suddenly the government is overthrown, her father is about to lose his life, and the rest of the family emigrates to London.

Life becomes very different in England. Najwa has a hard time finding herself. She does not want to study, her drug dealing brother end up in prison, her mother dies, and Najwa becomes a maid working for rich families. Her ex-boyfriend from Sudan finds her, but they never end up married. Najwa find a young man, but their relationship is not accepted by his family.

I enjoyed reading a book filled with so many contradictions, new versus old, tradition versus modern, as well as first living as a rich person in Muslim Sudan. and then as a poor person in liberal Christian England. This book explains the differences in an interesting and good way, and I would definitely recommend this book to readers who would like to understand these differences better. It is a well-written fast read, and a good, accurate description of how life can turn out to be something you never expected.  

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