Review Blog

Aug 27 2008

Under the Same Stars by Suzanne Fisher Staples

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Walker Books, 2007.
(Age 14+) In this powerful and superbly written sequel to Daughter of the Wind, set in Pakistan, Suzanne Fisher Staples writes openly about the Muslim culture and women's roles in a society bound strictly to traditional expectations.

Shabanu is the youngest, and the favourite, of four wives of Rahim, an older man of power and prestige. His other wives are jealous of Shabanu's position in the household and she must be ever watchful of her young daughter and herself. She spends time in Rahim's town house which provides some escape from the cruelty of the other wives but it is here that she encounters the love of a young man already betrothed. Also, her dear friend Zabo has been promised in marriage to Rahim's simple but only son, Ahmed. Tragedy occurs as the two girls become entangled in these binding family ties.

Recalling themes in Romeo and Juliet, this modern tragedy is an absorbing and emotive read, showing how powerless an individual can be when up against the demands of a strict society.

Staples worked for many years in Pakistan as an international correspondent: she brings to this story a wonderful sense of place and time. The rural landscape provides a haven for Shabuna as she battles the complexities of city life; it offers true family support, safety and cultural wisdom though at the expense of a modern education for her daughter.

This novel extends our understanding of a complex society and reveals how the fight for individual freedom can be dangerous even in modern times. Under the Same Stars is endorsed by Amnesty International.
Julie Wells

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