THE WIDOW’S HUSBAND by Mir Tamim Ansary

THE WIDOW’S HUSBAND is an amazing tale about British attempts to subdue Afghanistan in the mid-nineteenth century. Told from the Afghan point of view. I have never heard of author Mir Tamim Ansary, and I am glad that I checked on the Amazon website because I assumed this book had been written by a woman. Because the female characters are so prominent and dynamic.

Once this story gets going, it is a gripping tale of the clash of two very different cultures in the 19th-century. And Mr. Ansary does a wonderful job in detailing all the things that Afghans would find so repulsive about westerners (such as the nude statues that they have in their gardens). Another wonderful touch is the way that people address one another. I have heard often that Arabic is a most poetical language, but not knowing it myself I’ve been unable to appreciate it. Mr. Ansary’s rendition of flowery compliments and endearments brings all of this to life. And the ending is wonderfully rich and resonant.

The only problem I had with this novel is the beginning, which is slow. The reason for this is that there is no hook, or at any rate, the hook is buried between too much details and flowery compliments. I think this book could have been improved by the simple expedient of switching chapters 1 and 2. Four stars.

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