A young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family. A stunning, immense beautiful novel about courage, family and the meaning of love, when everything seems lost…
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.
Jamal 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.
Hi and welcome to my review of No Honour!
First of all, I would like to propose the motion of having Awais Khan crowned King of the Shocking Opening Chapter! I remember vividly how shook up I felt after listening to the opening chapter of In the Company of Strangers, how those first paragraphs got to me so unexpectedly. Yet silly me hadn’t prepared for the same thing to happen with No Honour. But it did. And I had to remind myself to close my mouth because it had fallen open from the shock of it all. Did I know what No Honour was about before I started it? Yes, I did. Was I prepared for the harrowing story that was waiting for me? No, I was not.
No Honour tells the story of sixteen-year-old Abida and her father Jamil, and the narrative alternates between their points of view. Abida and her family live in a small rural village in Pakistan, where life is lived in accordance with tradition. Boys get to go to school, girls remain at home and are largely illiterate. Boys get a certain amount of freedom, girls are not allowed to have opinions, and they must always safeguard the honour of the family. Men know what’s best, women are to obey or will get beaten within an inch of their lives if they don’t, because real men hit their wives, don’t ya know. This is the toxic environment Abida grows up in.
When Abida gets into trouble, her father must choose between love and honour, will he punish his daughter and save the honour of this family, or will he choose her, consequences be damned? When Abida manages to escape her backwater village, ending up in the city of Lahore, things start to snowball and her new life in the city couldn’t be further from the hopes and dreams she cherished while she was still in her village. Soon she is trapped in the seedy underbelly of Lahore, while her dad is desperately trying to get her out.
I’ve never been anywhere near Pakistan, but once again, Awais Khan made me feel like I had been there a dozen times before. His writing is just so supremely evocative, I’ve said this before and I stand by it. Without losing himself in detail he knows how to paint a picture in such a manner that you almost feel like you’re watching a film.
Pakistan is not shown in the most positive light. As I’ve said, it’s a country I’m not very familiar with, I did pick up a few things from In the Company of Strangers and I did know beforehand that it’s not the most woman-friendly country so to speak but bloody hell, I had no idea it was this bad. Regular visitors of my little blog will know I love to learn from reading fiction, and while I’m happy to have learnt more about Pakistan and its customs, it also broke my heart. It is just maddening that in this day and age, stories like No Honour still tell a truth that needs to be told.
Let me just stress that that doesn’t mean that No Honour should be read just because it’s “an important book”. I mean, it is but it is also stunningly beautiful and extremely readable. Which at the end of the day is the most important thing for most of us readers, I think. Sure, we want to read important books, and we want to learn about foreign cultures, but reading fiction, we first and foremost want to be entertained. We might want to escape our own reality by diving into someone else’s, we might want to travel the world without lifting a finger (except to turn the pages), but at the end of the day what we want most is to be drawn into a story, we want to be captivated, kept at the edge of our seats, on our toes, glued to the pages, going from one emotion to the next, feeling the characters’ pain, laughing with them, crying for them. And that, that right there, is what No Honour does.
No Honour broke my heart several times over. I loved Abida, I hated everything that was happening to her, everything that was being done to her. It made for difficult reading, my heart in my throat, my eyes forever on the brink of brimming with tears. However, I think I loved her dad even more. The love for his eldest child so overwhelming, his desperation palpable, throwing caution to the wind to save her, proving that there is hope even in desperate times.
I loved In the Company of Strangers but with No Honour, Awais Khan well and truly knocks it out of the park. Highly recommended.
No Honour is available in digital formats now and will be out in paperback on 19 August. (Pre)order directly from Orenda Books here.