My book group chose Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks based on the recommendation of one person who read it in college and remembered liking it, but couldn’t remember what it was about. Knowing that Ms. Brooks’ other books have gotten excellent reviews, I thought this would be an excellent choice.
I wasn’t the only one irritated to find out this wasn’t fiction, and the lesson we (well, more like me, since I’m the one who heads it up) learned was that we shan’t be taking anyone’s recommendation without a little research if they can’t remember what the book’s about. A little research is required when recommending a book.
I’m reluctant to say I enjoyed it, since that would be akin to avoiding a particular food all my life, tasting that particular food, and deciding I like it, realizing that I’d never even given that particular food a chance. Despite my enjoyment of Nine Parts of Desire, most likely I won’t be picking up any non-fiction (voluntarily) in the near future. I love to learn, LOVE TO LEARN, but for me, reading (books in particular) is for pleasure, enjoyment, and escape (I realize that this is not the case for everyone). Escaping to facts is not the same as escaping to fiction.
On to the book.
Nine Parts of Desire is Ms. Brooks’ attempt to understand why Muslim women take up the hijab and how the culture has slowly been eroding women’s rights, rather than furthering them. The author delves into the history of Islam, examining Muhammed and the subsequent attempt to interpret his messages.
Many subjects are examined, such as Muhammed, women in politics, genital mutilation, and Queen Noor. While the author was very good at staying objective, it was still difficult for her to understand why women would voluntarily submit to wearing the hijab.
My favorite part was the chapter on Queen Noor. She is a fascinating person, an American who met and fell in love with the King of Jordan, converted to Islam, and reigned with dignity and grace. Google her. Now.
Unfortunately, the person who’d recommended the book was unable to attend our book club meeting, so the discussion was lackluster. The problem with non-fiction, we felt, was that we couldn’t really discuss the author’s writing, the characters, plot development, etc. We briefly discussed what we liked and didn’t like, but as there’s nothing that we as white American women can do (seeing as how the Muslim women themselves can’t even effect change), there wasn’t much to discuss.
One of the book club members was able to find an anonymous critique of the book, but the critique didn’t hold much water, in our opinion. So the discussion fell a little…flat.
I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy non-fiction. Ms. Brooks has a compelling writing style and keeps up the pace. But for your book club? Maybe not.
Rating: 88 out of 100
You can find another review here.