The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
I loved this book. The writing is gorgeous. I found myself rereading passages to savor the words. That is, until I got caught up in the story! Now I am planning to reread the book so I can appreciate the writing skill that is so evident.
The characters are real. The conversations are real. The situations the characters find themselves in are real. The only flaw (if it is a flaw) is that all of the ends are tied up so neatly – especially Farida and Zahra – that one was just too pat.
The differing marriages that are explored would make a great topic for book groups – what makes a marriage or fail, what is a failed marriage, how are marriages different, what forces do family and culture play on marriage, who is responsible for making a marriage work, etc.
I learned a lot about India that changed my perspective on the current situation with China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. I also enjoyed learning a bit about World War II and British India.
There were times when I would have appreciated a glossary of the Indian terms and occasions used in the book. I wondered what “afternoon bread” was and how it differed from other breads. A map would have been helpful – I printed one off the Internet, but, of course, not all of the places mentioned were on any one map and trying to overlay them just didn’t work.
I would strongly recommend this book to book groups that are interested in family issues, history, ethnic culture, mystery and just great writing. I could not decide if this was “women’s” fiction, historical fiction, romance, and finally decided literary fiction was the most accurate.
I have a pashima from my daughter’s two and a half years living in Kazakhstan – of course not nearly as elegant or beautiful as Nerys’ - but even with only two colors, the design woven in fine wool threads on my shawl, is different on the two sides so I can appreciate the intricacy of the “Kashmir Shawl” described in the book.