Disgraced, by Saira Ahmed

Autobiographical account of a British Muslim woman who was taken by her family to Pakistan where she was forcibly married, after which she suffered abuse from her husband, so she escaped back to England where she resorted to prostitution to survive.

Well this was a reasonably interesting story, but I don't think it was that great a book. The main problem was that it felt a bit far-fetched. Not so much the story as outlined above - I can believe those events - but the way she talks about them makes it sound like she's not being quite candid. For example, when it becomes clear that she's been taken to Pakistan to be married, she doesn't seem to do much about it (maybe that's the culture, but it was just hard to believe she would be so acquiescent; perhaps this isn't helped by the reader's voice; see below).

And her recounting of becoming a prostitute just doesn't sound very plausible - her first client pays her but sends her away because she has too much perfume on; the second is wonderfully gentle with her, and it seems to be several months before she comes across the idea of a blow job, and is shocked that such a practice exists.

The other problem was the reader. Because it was in the first person, you tend to associate the reader's voice with the author. And the reader was a fairly dishy and well spoken intelligent sounding woman who I suspect may not be a lot like "Saira". With that and the picture on the cover (which also shows a fairly attractive young woman) some of the details of the story are a little hard to swallow. Maybe appearance and the sound of someone's voice shouldn't influence how you think of them, but they do. And my guess is that the real "Saira" isn't as articulate (the book was written "with" someone) or glamorous as you might otherwise be led to believe.

Another minor niggle about the reader was that she quite often got the emphasis wrong. The instance I remember was when she was talking about visiting a relative "and he put his hand on mine". She read that as "and he put his hand on mine", but she ought to have read "and he put his hand on mine". That sounds like a little thing, but it happened quite a bit (that I noticed) and it does distract and mislead you from what you're meant to be concentrating on.

Completed : 05-Apr-2011 (audiobook)

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