An introduction to Tajikistan: ‘The Disobedient Wife’ by Annika Milisic-Stanley (2015)


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.

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6 Responses to An introduction to Tajikistan: ‘The Disobedient Wife’ by Annika Milisic-Stanley (2015)

  1. Melissa Beck says:

    If you want more post-Soviet lit I highly recommend Voroshilovgrad and Calligraphy Lessons. I reviewed both on my site. This book looks like a great read!

  2. Naomi says:

    We read this one for our Literary Wives group, and I was quite taken with it. I’d never read a book set in Tajikistan before, and it was so interesting. The story and contrast between the two women was also wonderful.

  3. Ste J says:

    A country not familiar to many, it will offer something different scenically, even if the subjects tackled have been written before. Is this one of the better examples of such stories? I am curious as these sort of stories show up on my radar from time to time but when I tackle them I want to be getting the best.

    • I’ll have to read more to give a properly informed opinion as to where this stands in relation to other Tajikistan writings. One real positive is that this book did feel as if it had a foreign reader in mind and so there was no implicit expectation of prior knowledge. As for how it compares to other writings from the same setting … I’ll be keeping you posted as I discover more myself!

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