Book Reviews Reviews

Book Review: Talking about Jane Austin in Baghdad


Authors: Bee Rowlatt and May Witwit

I don’t deny that I get a little nosy sometimes and enjoy reading private email exchanges between people. These digital conversations can sometimes reveal life’s most exciting or intimate details, emotions as well as the writer’s inner desires and fears, and often, through their voice uncover their inner self, and the personalities hidden within.

This book is exactly that. A series of emails exchanged between two unlikely friends, one sitting in her comfortable home in London where life is often dictated by the children and doing social duties; the other in her shattered suburb in Baghdad where she battled with living in a war zone that exhausted her physically and drained her emotionally.

Without so much as a plot as events that occur during the time of their correspondence. we follow both’s women’s daily lives and their support for each other. We read about their family life, their struggle to understand each other’s dilemmas, attempts to understand each other’s culture and religion and follow their emotional journey as they work towards a common goal: to get May and her husband out of Baghdad.

The book itself seems to follow the up and downs of the women, as some pages would be filled with interesting and exciting reads, only to be followed by disconnected lines of concern as the women began to also communicate by mobile phones, making the book a little slow to read. However, we are quickly reminded that this is, a series of real emails sent by real women and this injection of reality gives us the opportunity to derive the missing events with common sense, thus bringing us closer to the lives of Bee and May.

This book demonstrate the power we have within us when confronted with life’s hardship; educate us in many of the mis-understandings of the Iraqi culture and their stance on religion, as the same time as a reminder that in a war, it is always the innocent, those who just want to carry on their lives without the bureaucracy and the politics, that suffer the most.

A light hearted way of displaying human emotions: this book is a must read.

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