I’m going to be honest from the outset & say that I struggled with these two books!!!!
The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt – which I borrowed from a friend.
The Little Coffee Shop In Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez – which I bought myself as it had been on my reading horizon for quite some time.
The Drowning Lesson – Jane Shemilt
‘It takes seconds to register that all the lights in the house are blazing. Adam is shouting, his voice low-pitched like an animal in pain. I start running. The shadows in our bedroom flicker differently: it takes me a moment to see that the curtains are torn, and moving in the slight wind. A glittering pile of glass lies in front of the window, a few jagged shards still lodged in the frame. The cot is empty.’
Published by Penguin books in 2015, The Drowning Lesson sets itself in two countries, Botswana & England. Emma & her husband Adam (just like Jane Shemilt & her husband) both work in the medical field. They are both extremely competitive in the world they work in, really to the detriment of anything else in their lives, including their children. Emma has a very strong work ethic with the need to always be the winner. It is a work ethic she developed from a very young age after the death of her mother, as she tried to impress her father & see him smile again.
Adam gets offered a research post in Botswana for a year. To go means Emma giving up everything she has worked hard to achieve in her own medical field. She has never encouraged female friendships or any activity that will take her away from her drive to succeed, so this is a life changing decision for her and one she doesn’t take lightly.
Meanwhile, their daughter Alice is struggling in school. She is craving the love & attention of two very busy parents and her behaviour is noticed by both parents. A decision must be be made…..
Emma agrees on the trip to Botswana as a break for the family, a chance to regroup and strengthen as a unit.
This is where I struggled with the book. A gap year with small kids to a remote destination in Botswana, being attended to by people with no security checks and in the middle of it all….pregnant…….. Their life unravels after a very short while, when it is discovered that their newborn son, Sam, has been stolen. The Botswana police force leave a lot to be desired, as Emma hunts down her child over a 12 month period.
I found the story a little bit too far fetched. Some of the activities that Emma gets up to on her own in search of her child in a foreign country is just not very believable. Her marriage to Adam falters, her relationship with Alice changes and Zoe (middle child)….just there in the background. All ends as expected and I guess their life rolls on!!
See what you think….
The Little Coffee Shop in Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez
‘In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women come together…
Sunny, the proud proprietor, who needs an ingenious plan – and fast – to keep her café and customers safe.
Yazmina, a young pregnant woman stolen from her remote village and now abandoned on Kabul’s violent streets
Isabel, a determined journalist with a secret that might keep her from the biggest story of her life
Candace, a wealthy American who has finally left her husband for her Afghan lover, the enigmatic Wakil.
Halajan, the sixty-year-old den mother, whose long-hidden love affair breaks all the rules
As these five women discover there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they form a unique bond that will for ever change their lives and the lives of many others’
Published in 2011 in the United States under the title A Cup of Friendship by Ballantine Books and later as an ebook in Great Britain by Sphere in 2012. This paperback copy was published in 2013.
I saw the cover, I read the back (above) and I thought….this is going to be great. The characters are strong, their storylines look intriguing, it’s about Afghanastan…what’s not to like????? Like most of you, I have read The Kite Runner, which by the way is an amazing book, and I thought this would be of a similar style. The location is the same, but that is where the similarities stop.
SPOILER ALERT (Just little ones)
Sunny’s ingenious plan?? Build a high wall
Yazmina’s abandonment? Lasts about 2 pages & she ends up working at the café
Isabel’s BIG secret? Raped while on a previous journalistic job
Candace?? A brash American with more money than sense
Halajan? Owner of the premises of the café
Of the five women, it is Halajan and Yazmina who struck a chord with me. At least their story has resonance with reality. Deborah Rodriguez spent five years teaching in Kabul so many of her insights into local life are well written & I felt the suffering of the women & the poor.
I do believe that the acceptance of the lifestyle chosen by Sunny, Isabel and Candace is generously portrayed in the book. Also some of the language used by the locals is a little unrealistic..to quote from the book as said by an eldery tailor Rashif “Muhammad knew the truth about love. It doesn’t come often. And there is no reason when it comes to love – pretty or not, young or old – so go figure”
In this book, each & every one of these women is linked to a man, which brings boyfriend/man problems into the storyline. I was not looking for a love story. I was hoping for a thoughtful & insightful read into the lives of woman in Kabul & how they struggle to survive the day-to-day. Unfortunately I didn’t get that.
This is my own opinion of these books. For some of you these books may be the perfect beach read on a sunny day or wrapped up on a sofa by a blazing fire.
I try to be honest in all my reviews and I know that we all have different opinions on what we read.
Please let me know if you have read either of these books and what you thought of them.
Til next time.