Book Reviews

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulwaha

History has a strange way of alluring us in its pages. The pages that are full of stories, exuding the vibe of a warm narration by an elderly who has seen it all, filled with pain, will, and loss of a loved one. And here I was listening with rapt attention to these excavations of Israel and Palestinian hostility, coated in solidarity, blood, and pogroms. Against the loveless world is one woman’s story carved in the backdrop of the said raging history. And who best to hear it from but own voice- Susan Abulwaha. Her writing is one of a kind that runs high on sentiments, facts, and events never for a moment slacking like a thread let loose.

We first meet Nahr in a cube. She narrates her life story wandering the lanes of her past and teleporting herself into the present when she talks of life in a cube- stifled solitary prison. This seamless oscillation has been presented exceptionally well by the author. Nahr’s narration feels like a conversation we are having with her sitting across; written mindfully by slipping in the minutiae. The book speaks of the early life of Nahr and the paths she chose so her family could make ends meet. As a migrant, things were never easy for her family but Nahr always talks fondly of her adoptive country –Kuwait. She leaves behind her sexually abused, assaulted, and mistreated life of Kuwait after things get disrupted by Saddam Hussein’s invasion. Nahr’s traumatic past firms in her mind the belief, of the world, being a place deprived of love until she meets Bilal on one of her trips to Palestine. Her life in the cube for sixteen years is every bit harrowing, just as her tumultuous past.

The trajectory Susan Abulwaha draws through Nahr’s life with her flowy yet piercing words gravitate towards emphasizing the struggle of Palestinians, their solidarity, and the justice they were denied in their homeland. Elaborate and thrilling, the book is a page-turner. The beauty of its craft lies in laying bare the facts of a troubled life and following an unfiltered approach to putting in the easiest words the complete history, through the events that transpired back in the time.

It is every inch disturbing but enticing because you never seem to get enough of it. It only makes you dig deeper into the history of these riots. Though a work of fiction the myriad of themes that span out in the book make us acquainted with the chronology, some touching the periphery and others being deep delved into. The earlier segment of Nahr’s account reminded me of the book – Woman at point zero by Nawal El Saadawi and along with it came the overwhelming feelings of pain that I went through while reading it. This one though changes its course soon and shifts focus to a much larger antique canvas. I recommend reading this if you, just like me are starting to know this part of history for the first time.

A Big thanks to the publisher – Bloomsbury India for the review copy.