2023 so far has been kind of slow in terms of reading! Majorly because, I am trying to be a bit more organized with my limited days off. I am focusing on other things, writing being obviously one of them, spending more time in self care is another one! My manifestation of self-care has come down to the simplest things these days. For example, being content with the present, and dance every now and then in the rain! Rhetorically of course. Reading has become one of those acts of self care, instead of a relentless marathon. Now back to the book…
The story is kind of a memoir of an English woman's experience of being a part of an Arab Sheikh’s family. Patricia Holtron is like a mother to the two sons of an Arab Sheikh who wanted his sons to study in London. Patricia’s husband and the Sheikh had business relations and through that Patricia is introduced to the two boys and takes this unprecedented almost life long role of like a mother to them. Through her eyes, she has painted a very detailed picture of how it was to be associated so closely to an Arab family, one of the prominent Sheikhs of Al Ain. She describes about her many trips from London to Al Ain in details, including the elaborate and beautiful hospitality of the Sheikh’s family. She dives into details about her role in the growing up of the two boys spread over a decade or so. She has given a closer view to the many details of an Arab household as big and influential as the Sheikh’s, including the Shekiha’s role in it. The Hareem, an assembly of only the females of the clan, is described beautifully and its imperative importance in the families. Holtron takes the reader through an entire journey of more than a decade, while sharing the smallest details of how intertwined their lives were with her own own. Family celebrations, marriages, relocations, even health crisis have been penned down to the smallest details by Holtron, giving the reader an extremely holistic perspective of the Arab Culture, more importantly, of that particular family’s traditions to the reader.
The book has a very different body, compared to most of the memoirs that I have read so far. It could be like a travelogue may be, except that it’s majorly focused on her travels to the UAE. Even though the author shares uncountable stories of her experiences with different aspects of the Arab culture, it doesn’t feel as personal or as raw as how memoirs usually are. In fact that’s what makes them so real and beautiful and appealing. The writing feels a little bit biased as it captures majorly the good parts of her travel. It feels like a very rosy picture, and that’s a bit unreal for me! But also, perhaps it was indeed just as rosy as the author painted it. Perhaps that’s why it seems extremely unrelatable too, and a bit impersonal as well. Or, May be it’s just my reading interests that crave for brutally honest accounts of life stories, or travelogues, where the ugly part is given as much spot light as the good part!
On the other hand, The writing is easy to understand. It is one of qualities of the native English writers that hugely appeals to me. I guess it does makes a difference when one’s story is written in the person’s first language, rather than someone like me who learnt the language as a second language. And, If I ever come across any fiction written by her, I would perhaps give it a read, and give myself a chance to change my mind about Holtron’s books.
I would rate this memoir/travelogue 3.5/10.