Razia

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

This was such an enlightening book. Unfortunately it’s not just fiction though. Such cases are common place globally. Farah is a young, enthusiastic, driven lawyer who meets a young woman called Razia from Pakistan one night at a dinner and realised that she is being kept as a domestic slave. This story follows Farah as she endeavours to free Farah. It takes us to Pakistan, it explores the Pakistani culture, customs and people and it paints Pakistan in s very poor light. This was a very insightful read and kept me hooked throughout.
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I received a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley.

Razia would be a fantastic book club read.    It touches upon a sensitive topic that would be a great discussion piece of a book club. 

The book was well-written... the characters were well-developed.  I enjoyed this book.
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Thank you Unbound and Netgalley for an ARC of his book.

The plot of this book engaged me and successfully entwined contemporary social issues making it a good choice for book groups to discuss,
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Khan's book features a young lawyer, Farah Jilani, who involves herself with the plight of a Pakistani girl who finds herself a modern slave. Which is definitely a crime. Farah meets the girl, Razia, at the home an important business contact and she quickly realises that the 'housekeeper' is, in fact, not a paid member of the family's staff but a slave. When, with the help of the Pakistani High Commissioner, she is able to help Razia to escape and return to her family it seems that the story has nowhere further to go: but when the girl is arrested for drug smuggling Farah then decides to travel to Pakistan herself to complete the rescue she began in London. Once in Lahore Farah recruits the help of Ali Omar, a local lawyer who also understands the complex political and cultural background of the situation to try and rescue Razia, once again, but this time from a brutal prison system. Farah comes to realise that, although she thought she understood her Pakistani heritage, the reality is much more complex than she knew.

This is a fascinating novel which teaches us (as well as Farah) a lot about both modern slavery and life for the very poorest sectors of Pakistani society. Although, at times, the information aspects of the story can feel a little clunky the plot itself still manages to grip. I certainly felt I knew a lot more about modern slavery and the inequalities of Pakistani culture by the end. Abda Khan's passion for highlighting these inequalities shines through very clearly.
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Great novel to raise awareness of the different types of slavery that exist. Would have liked more expansion of the story at the end of the novel, but thoroughly enjoyed the storyline.
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I loved this book!  Not only was it beautifully written but also exposed the atrocities that abound in Pakistan.  It had exactly the right mix of poignancy (without being overly dramatic) and also the wide divide of the right and poor.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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Slavery. It’s easy to assume it’s no longer an issue since it’s been banned in Western countries but the fact is, slavery is an ongoing issue in many parts of the world. And much as we don’t like to think about it, it often rears its head in our own backyards. Razia takes a look at the ‘new’ form of slavery and how it can hide in plain sight.

Fiery, feisty Farah Jilani is an attorney, head of the immigration department at a high powered law firm in London. It’s a position she’s worked hard to obtain and she’s proud of the work she does, tackling important issues for the clients sent to her by The Pakistani High Commission. She’s well aware that work comes her way not because of her Pakistani heritage but almost entirely due to the fact that  one of the managing partners at the firm was school chums with Deputy High Commissioner Zaheer Mansur. Which is why she is headed to Zaheer’s posh apartment on a Friday night. Spending the evening schmoozing with her colleagues and their important embassy contacts isn’t her idea of fun – especially since her ex, a junior partner at the firm, is bound to be there – but she gamely shows up, planning to eat and run.

During the meal, Farah decides to use the opportunity created by the dishes being cleared to make a discreet trip to the bathroom. She makes a wrong turn that will change the course of her life. She arrives in the kitchen instead, where she discovers a young woman being berated by Zaheer and his wife. The girl, clearly frightened, is dressed in rags, and sobbing as the lady of the house castigates her. It is when Zaheer lifts his hand to strike her that Farah is really taken aback. Leaving the room before anyone notices her presence, she heads back to the party deeply disturbed. A return the next week under the guise of looking for a lost earring confirms her worst fear: Razia, the young woman in the kitchen, is a domestic slave.

Farah puts her legal skills to work and quickly has Razia released into her custody. Conversations with the Pakistani High Commissioner in London assure that Zaheer loses his position and plans are made to send him home. Farah puts Razia on a flight to Lahore, happy to be able to reunite the girl with her family. But Razia’s taste of freedom looks to be very short lived indeed, for once she arrives back in Pakistan, problems immediately arise. Determined to see this through to the bitter end, Farah heads to Lahore, ready to take on the injustice and exploitation which is keeping young women enslaved.

The author does a fantastic job of creating a tense, taut story that focuses a spotlight on a formidable problem. I quickly found myself swept up in the tale, wondering how our protagonists were going to survive taking on a system that was ancient, evil, powerful and deeply rooted. Ms. Khan also does a great job of showing us how this is just one aspect of the culture – the fabulous food, beautiful clothes, the comforting grace of the Islamic faith, the kind, generous nature of the Pakistani people – all of these serve as gentle contrasts to the brutality of a form of government which tolerates the complete oppression of the lower class. It was chilling to read about it and realize that real people are experiencing that existence right now.

Ms. Khan tries to lighten the mood of the novel by including a romance for Farah, who has been unlucky in love in the past. While in Pakistan, she meets human rights lawyer and activist, Ali Omar. It’s clear from the start that the two share a deep passion for justice as well as compassionate natures and it’s wonderful to watch their relationship grow as they form a partnership to help Razia. Farah’s close relationship with her parents and love of Pakistani cuisine are additional bright spots in the story. I found myself hungry for tandoori chicken, naan  and samosas by the time I turned the last page! I know sometimes it seems that authors over emphasize food in multicultural stories but the fact is that food often plays a huge role in the lives of immigrants. That literal taste of home evokes a place and people no longer seen on a regular basis and can be powerfully nostalgic and comforting.

The book does have some problems. The writing can be choppy and fortuitous events happen with shocking regularity. The characterization is roughly drawn; it could be hard at times to understand what motivated people to do what they did. Both Ali and Farah behave unprofessionally when such actions are needed to move the plot along and Farah especially seemed to struggle with the concept of subtlety and social niceties. This often made her seem like a bull in a china shop since both British and Pakistani cultures tend to value courtesy and calm civility. I’ll add that I thought the epilogue was completely unnecessary and actually detracted from the story. The intense, chilling nature of the plot captured my interest enough that I was able to stay engaged with the book in spite of its flaws.

Razia  is a disturbing and at times, downright frightening, novel. However it is also a powerful reminder about the crucial role the courts play in the lives of ordinary citizens and the importance of fighting for equality for all. It opened my eyes to some of the horrors that occur just an ocean away and made me grateful for all the freedom, peace and prosperity in my own life. This isn’t an easy read but I would say it is a very timely and relevant story and would recommend it to those looking for a book that will truly move you and maybe even enlighten your perspective.
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I listened to the audiobook autobiography of Slave by Mende Nazer several years ago now, but the horror of her existence as a modern-day slave has remained strongly in my memory. In Razia Abda Khan managed to evoke the same emotions from me. This novel is a compelling thriller with a conscience and I was impressed that both aspects of the story complement each other, adding to its strengths overall. I never felt as though I was being lectured about slavery or that the thrilling narrative detracted from the seriousness of its subject. Yet, when I finished reading Razia, I had been educationed and entertained, and inspired to find out more about this issue on the real world. It's a cleverly balanced novel with powerful sense of authenticity.



Razia explores not only the immediate consequences of one young woman's enslavement, but also the social and patriarchal systems which allow the practice to be depressingly common. I liked how Khan contrasts London with Lahore and Islamabad and it was interesting to see how London lawyer Farah found herself so disoriented by the realities of such a different culture. I loved Farah! She always felt genuine as a character and I understood the motivation of even her most impetuous actions. Her back story of the pressures of being thirty and Not Yet Married was a great lighter foil to the main storyline and also provided a good focus onto the differences between Farah and Razia, their expectations and opportunities.



I was suprised by just how much I enjoyed and appreciated this novel and would happily recommend it to a wide readership across fans of literary fiction, Asian fiction and thrillers.
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I'm Still Unsettled About This Book. As I write this review, I finished reading this book just a few minutes ago before eating supper with my wife while watching How I Met Your Mother, as is our norm. And while the book is definetly worthy of the 5 stars I decided to give it, my mind hasn't really set on a way to review it, hence this more stream-of-consciousness review. On the one hand, the ending was at least somewhat predictable in type if not in particulars, particularly after an event about 2/3 into the book, and the time jumps without any level of overt date reference were a bit jarring, but detectable within the context of the events described. But at the end of the day, this was a very detailed look at modern Pakistani life in particular, which is something I had never seen before - and that alone to me warranted the 5 stars, for the education it gave me while telling a solid story. I guess I'm torn more because of how the overall tale turned out, which I really can't get into too much without going into spoiler territory. For so long the book was going in one direction and was a solid effort in that direction, and then the book abruptly shifts into a completely different direction and yet there too is reasonably solid, and the two different direction do indeed come together in the end. But read the book for yourself and decide for yourself. It is a truly worthy read.
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At times, I wish I could turn off my internal writing editor. While the book was mostly well-written, there were passages filled with things writers are told are cliched no-no’s. Opening with a description of the weather, for example. Backstory dumps given before we care (or even know) the characters. A long, pointless commute when the character reminisces about the past. The overuse of adverbs. Describing–overdescribing–every character’s physical appearance when that person shows up for the first time. The “rules” of writing are flexible, but break cautiously. My opinion, of course.

Here’s the thing: I seriously doubt the average reader cares about these things.

But I care about these types of details because I’m a writer.  I see how they weaken the story’s power.

It is a powerful story. Here’s why:

1. Information about trafficking

I requested this book from Netgalley because of my interest and concern about human trafficking. Far too many people are blissfully unaware of what’s happening in plain sight. (People in my area of the Southeast U.S. are shocked to learn that we have a high trafficking rate. Sad.) Khan knows this topic well; she’s a human rights advocate herself.

2. The depiction of the Pakistani culture’s complexities

The second half of the book, when Farah teams up with Ali in Pakistan, are strong. Khan’s descriptions of Pakistani food are mouth-watering. Ali’s lecture/rant/description of the legal system is strong. The wealthy can escape justice; the poor can’t escape injustice. The truth, reality, ethics: this doesn’t matter. Then Ali adds, "If you happen to be female, then your fate will be even worse. Women are, to put it bluntly, often simply left to rot." (chapter 26)

Yet there is beauty in this culture, too. After a tragedy, poor villagers welcome Farah and Ali with gracious, sacrificial hospitality. In a truly moving section, Farah attends a village funeral and amid the mourning, she awakens to her cultural roots and embraces them for the first time.

3. Farah and Ali’s relationship

Farah is a bit naive about the realities of the culture and legal system, and Ali has to take swift action to correct many of her impulsive actions. Her perception is skewed; she sees things as a Westerner and acts like one as well. Though well-intended, Farah doesn’t realize that she may make things worse by trying to make things better. She’s unrealistic, though she’d never see herself that way. Ali, on the other hand, understands these realities all too well. It’s great to see them learn to work together.

Overall, this is a good book. Though I think it could be stronger, I recommend it to anyone interested in the issue of human trafficking. 3 and 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4

(Review on blog will go live on July 5, 2019.)
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I literally raced through this novel, not wanting to put it down, because I had to know what happened. There are parts that I wanted to skip through, but others that I wanted to savor, and all in all both feelings balanced each other out.
 
 Farah is a lawyer of Pakistani descent, living in the UK. She’s worked hard to get where she is, and loves her parents, who are still hoping she will find a lovely Pakistani man to marry at some point, all the while supporting her in her career and endeavors. She randomly discovers that one of her law firm’s clients, a rich and highly ranked Pakistani family, have trafficked and enslaved a young woman (Razia) in their home, and Farah does everything she can to help her. But once she sets the ball rolling, everything seems to become unraveled and sets off a whole chain of events, in both the UK and Pakistan.
 
 I loved how deeply embedded the rich Pakistani culture, traditions, clothes, and food are in the novel. Abda Khan’s words take you to the streets of Islamabad and Lahore and you can literally smell the food she describes. Farah is a very likeable character and her strength and will are palpable. I also loved how Abda Khan brings up the very important and widespread issue of human trafficking, and how difficult and dangerous it can be to destroy the networks in place. I did find the characters and plot a little predictable at times, and some of the text was a little cheesy and felt a little rushed too. But all in all it was a good read and one that made me all the more intent on making a change in the world, especially when it comes to the trafficking of women and children.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this novel!
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Well written, good plot and gripping. A real page turner. Devoured it over 3days.. Thank you netgalley for sending me this book to reveiw
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Received a copy of this book through NetGalley.
Well written storyline,loved the description throughout the book,brought up some social points that readers may not be aware of,in an interesting way.
Would recommend this book to be on your reading list as it enlightens social and cultural problems that could be brought up in a book club.
Would like to read more books from this author.
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