Monday 30 August 2021

No Honour by Awais Khan BLOG TOUR @AwaisKhanAuthor #NoHonour @OrendaBooks #Abida #BookReview


In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.

When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.

Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.

Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.

No Honour by Awais Khan was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 19 August 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, as part of this Blog Tour.

Honour : a quality that combines respect, being proud, and honesty

(Definition from the Cambridge Dictionary)

I often find it difficult, as a Westerner. to criticise other cultures. Who am I to decide if something is right or wrong? What right have I to judge other cultures? I try to be open-minded when reading about things that I know little about, I try to understand tradition. 

However, I make no apologies for stating here that there is no honour at all in murder. None, whatsoever. Do not try to justify murder by telling me that the victim was dishonourable and has let down her family. Do not try to tell me that an unmarried woman, or child in many cases, is evil and lustful. Do not try to tell me that the innocent baby born out of wedlock is wicked and shameful. 

I am not the only person to think this. Many many people in Pakistan agree with me. In fact, 'honour killings (known locally in the country as karo-kari) are abhorred by many and there have been legal reforms in the country, allowing strict punishment to the perpetrators. Honour killing victims are not only females; males too are targeted. 

Awais Khan's startling and incredibly emotive story concerns the death and ill treatment of females in Pakistan and it is a book that continues to haunt me, days after finishing it. It is a story based in truth, written with honesty and passion and one that I urge everyone to read. It is not an easy read by any means, but it is so incredibly important. 

The opening scenes of No Honour are shocking, taking place in the early morning on the banks of a river in a small Pakistan village. A young girl gives birth to a child, and almost immediately afterwards she is taken from her home, along with the child and dealt with by the villagers. These are not strangers to her, these are the people that she has known since she was a baby, these are her family. It is raw and emotional and hard to read.

The two main characters in No Honour are Abida; another young teenager, and her father Jamil. Jamil differs to most men in their small village. He has his own honour, passed down to him from his mother, and his honour is true. He struggles with the expectation that as a man, he is expected to beat his wife, and demand sex. When Jamil's suspicions about his eldest, and favourite daughter Abida are proved to be true, he knows exactly what she will face. 

Whilst Abida is, in some ways, an innocent and naive teenager who has never left the small village that she grew up in, she has also inherited some of her grandmother's strengths. She is determined that she will not be another victim of the villager's idea of honour and is able to escape, along with her boyfriend to the sprawling city of Lahore. 

It is in Lahore that her worst nightmares come true and there are times when Abida wonders if it may have been better to stay at home and meet her fate. 

The city is dirty, poverty stricken and full of people who will take advantage of her and her husband. There is violence and drugs and unbearable tragedy around every corner. As Abida moves from a filthy apartment, to the faded splendour of a whore house and then to the mansion house of a drug dealer, her loyal and loving father also faces his own precarious journey. 

It is rare that I have to set down a book to take a breather. The absolute pain and utter desolation of Abida's situation became unbearable for me at times, and I had to do just that. Set it aside, gather myself together and breathe, before I could continue. 

Awais Khan's writing is masterful. He captures the small village community and then the sprawling city life so very well. It is enthralling; the sights, the sounds, the smells are described so vividly and with such authenticity, there is no doubt that this is an author who knows exactly what he is writing about. 

As we look around our world and see and hear about the terrible things that are happening throughout, it can be difficult to read about it in fiction too. However, for me, this book gave me an awareness and an insight into the whys and the hows, far more than any TV news broadcast will ever do. Whilst the subject matter is shocking, it is never exploitative, it is never done purely for the shock factor. It is sensitively and often beautifully captured.

This is a very special book. One that will stay with me forever, and one that I will re-read, for sure.

Highly recommended, and is now up there as one of my books of the year so far. 

Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University, and studied creative writing with Faber Academy.  

His debut novel, In the Company of Strangers, was published to much critical acclaim, and he now regularly appears on TV and radio. 

Awais also teaches a popular online creative writing course to aspiring writers around the world. 

He lives in Lahore and is currently working on his third novel. 

Follow Awais on Twitter @AwaisKhanAuthor.

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