A traumatic read that delivers a message of tolerance as our female narrator grows from timid student to hardened militant in a time of political turbulence and fanaticism in Syria. The main characters are gloriously vivacious and the narrative powerfully depicts the corrosive effects of sectarian prejudice. We experience religious fervour as it is pitted against erotic awakening and understand how hate can feel as passionate a force as love.
Whenever the city’s terror increased over the next few months, so did my certainty that hatred would make me into a hard woman, not the shy girl who used to stand on the doorsill afraid of loneliness and orphanhood. It was now summer, and for two unforgettable months, my vigour reached its pinnacle after a group of ‘our best young men’ were executed, as my uncle Selim described them in a prayer for the absent dead which was held for their souls. We passed on their brave words from the television coverage of their trial, when they explained their cruelty and their hardness. We envied them; they would reach Paradise before us, and their daring aroused the sympathy of the city’s inhabitants as they denounced the government’s corruption. Prayers were held in many different houses for their souls, and cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’ were raised at the moment of their execution.