So many reading projects and so little time! I really enjoyed my year of Russian Reading in 2015, and had honestly planned to expand my knowledge of post-Soviet fiction in 2016, but time has run away with me, and it’s only thanks to being send this Tajikistan-set novel that I have even one such book under my belt six months into the year.
‘The Disobedient Wife’ provides both an insider and an outsider view of the country. Nargis is a powerful and independently minded native of Dushanbe. She battles her family, poverty and her ex-husband, but is helped by an incredible sense of self and a forthright confidence in her place in the world. It may be against traditional norms for a woman to abandon an abusive husband but Nargis does not care, she is determined to make a life for herself and her children and to show she can succeed as a modern Tajikistani woman. In contrast, Harriet Simenon, is a conventional Western woman of leisure. She lives a sheltered life, bolstered by her husband’s money and Nargis’s selfless care of her children. Unlike the ambitious Nargis however, Harriet is stifled by her life and situation. She may have access to wealth, but there’s little to spend it on in Dushanbe and her frequently absent husband has little sympathy with her claustrophobia and frustration.
The novel moves between the two women, providing a story of modern ‘girl power’ in an unexpected setting. Giving additional depth to the narrative are the details of life in Dushanbe ‘a brave new world of the Mafia’s making; forever locked into the hardship of civil war without actual fighting,’ ‘resolutely un-Anglophone, traditional yet secular, tightly controlled.’ It’s been an intriguing introduction to a post-Soviet literature and has left me keen to explore further …
I received my copy of ‘The Disobedient Wife’ from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.