No Honour by Awais Khan

From the PR: “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 – only to disappear.

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.”

Let’s get to it: No Honour is an astoundingly good novel. An important and brilliantly written story, Awais Khan’s book is a real stunner that had me riveted from the off.

Commencing with a painfully tragic and moving portrayal of an ‘honour’ killing in a Pakistan village, No Honour tackles a heavy subject matter and Khan, a very talented writer, details a world that is a terrifying reality in parts of Pakistani society and elsewhere in the world. Not for the faint of heart but a powerful, important and compelling read.

The subjects of honour killing, the subjugation of and violence against women and young girls don’t make for an easy read or subject matter for a novel but Awais Khan has an ace up his sleeve in the story of Abida and her father, Jamil. In these wonderful and warm characters and their journey, Khan tells a story that takes the reader through some genuinely shocking scenes that are very real, yet keeps us gripped because we care about them. It also makes it all the harder hitting.

Khan doesn’t flinch in his portrayals of some of the novels darker moments and it’s clear that so much of this is rooted in reality. There’s real skill here – there’s never a suggestion of shock for the sake of it, instead events unfold as though being genuinely observed with Khan’s narrative style deftly guiding us through. It’s a masterfully written story that manages to walk that very fine line in delivering a hard-hitting portrayal of a dark subject matter while still making for compelling fiction.

However, for all the brutality and shock, this is also a story of the power of love and compassion. The love that Jamil has for his daughter and his determination to see her safe, the memory of his mother’s love that guides him, the power of love to win through and show the way beyond the dark and it’s how this compassion shines in contrast to the ways of the jirga that makes the novel so compelling.

Khan has a great style and can paint a brilliant canvas with it – his descriptions of both village and city place you right there and his characters, even the most repugnant, are glorious in their detail.

My thanks as always to Karen at Orenda Books for my copy of No Honour and to Anne Cater for inviting me to review as part of this blog tour.

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