My Rating *****
‘And The Sun Always Sets’ by Danny Odato is one of those books that directly touches your heart and leaves a long lasting impression. The author really deserves compliments for writing such a fine piece of heart touching tale. This book certainly deserves all five stars.
This book is about Mariyam (an ordinary Pakistani girl with no extraordinary qualities) and her soul mate Faisal. It is about their journey to live by their own merits and on their own terms in a world of corruption and oppression. The story is based in a small village in Pakistan where women are still not treated with the respect they deserve. The story brings light on the struggle by society in this village to accept new modes of living. The women characters of this story are being presented very subtly and delicately by a series of external contrasts and counterpoints between older and younger women, and also between different class values. The story is also presented through a series of symbols which reflect or suggest the inner conflicts of the women protagonists themselves, who, although they are markers of change, are at the same time aware of the devastation such a change might bring. Most importantly, the book mirrors the bafflement of a traditional, largely male society, in face-to-face encounter with the new notions of selfhood, and particularly, of womanhood.
‘And The Sun Always Sets’ is a world of commoners and ordinary folk. However, many of the characters of this book possess extraordinary qualities that lend themselves to the very stuff of Odato’s art. Not all the characters are mild and vague about their future. We have Mariyam and Faisal, who hold dynamic notions of themselves, and in wanting to achieve their private goals, which are opposed to the norms of the society, they fail. The characters of both Mariyam and Faisal have been portrayed authentically by the author. Mariyam is placed carefully in the book, by a number of minor portraits of women, who, by contrasting with her in various ways, provide the reader with a reasonably complete picture of women in an orthodox milieu of Pakistani society. The core of the novel examines Mariyam’s attempt to assert her independence and her failure in this. The most interesting aspect of Mariyam’s character is the depiction of her struggle in searching her self-definition. Her father assigned her a secondary place and kept her there with such subtlety and cunning that she herself began to lose all her independence, her individuality, stature and strength. However, it is her struggle against her own father that defines her role in the story.
The stuff in this fiction is life as it is lived on the road, in market and homes. The individuals merge into society without much ado, implying a philosophical acceptance. This amounts to the traditional emphasis on the community, which is the ultimate principle in governing the destiny of individuals. It seems that the author had a very clear idea of what he wished to achieve in this novel, and it is certainly one of his most tightly structured work. This novel is also unusual in having so definite a social message. Mariyam, the main protagonist of this work, provides the main perspective and point of view in the novel. The author presents her as rebellious, but in the end, too powerless to subvert.
I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
(I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review.)