Saturday, March 14, 2009
Love in a Torn Land: Jean Sasson
Wow...it's been more than a month since this blog was updated. Happy reasons for that: I was away in Vietnam! Gorgeous country, and now back in this ridiculous office environment we pretend to call work, everything seems like a capsule cut across in Time and pasted in my life.
Apart from taking 1000s of photos, and walking endlessly, I also managed to read in Vietnam. I had picked The Good Soldier by Ford but quickly passed that rambling beginning, and chose my traveling partner's book, Love in a Torn Land by Jean Sasson. Now, Sasson has been writing a while - usually picking the real life story of some woman in the Middle East and retelling it in her own words. Love in a Torn Land had a very promising beginning - set in Iraq, it begins with the young Joanna Al-Askari talking of her childhood as a Kurd in strife-torn Baghdad under Saddam's rule. Her portrayal of the life of Kurds under Saddam was stark, beautiful, and eye-opening.
I wish she had stuck to that. Much of the later half of the book is devoted to her love: Sarbast, who she falls in love with from the age of 16. Since then, every passage is devoted to Sarbast with the piercing eyes, rippling biceps, and his 'figher spirit.' I say this only because it detracts in a way from the passionate struggle of the Kurds - how much they suffered! I was also wondering what exactly Sarbast did - yeah, he mans a radio station but he owns a machine gun, and each time Joanna says he went out to fight, I wonder how many Sarbast himself killed? If he did? We don't know that answer, of course. Sometimes war tends to do that - we take sides, and forget that human lives are lost, both ways.
After being bombed with poison gas, incredibly, Joanna and Sarbast escape from Iraq, into Iran,and finally seek asylum in UK, where they now live. It is an amazing story, I only wish the language was a little less flowery...and less Mills & Boonish.
On another note, one of the book's title is Love in a Torn Land: One Woman's Daring Escape from Iraq. Why only the woman? Joanna escapes with her husband...small thought.
Verdict: Readable. Courageous story.