Oppression – a novel addressing the topic of gender inequality set against the Egyptian Protests of January. 2014. When English Beth crosses paths with Egyptian Layla, who is desperate to get out of an arranged marriage, she realises the two of them have much in common
On Christmas Day, 2014, Beth realises that her marriage to Duncan is in deep trouble. He has always been controlling and demanding, causing the atmosphere in their home to be strained. They do not have children – Duncan does not want them but when Beth sees how fond he is of his little niece and nephew, Beth’s sister’s children, she cannot help but wonder why. Then she meets sixteen-year-old Layla, about to be forcefully carried away by two men in the streets. Beth prevents the men from taking her and takes Layla home. This antagonises Duncan. When an arranged marriage takes Layla to Egypt, Beth promises Layla’s mother she will go and find her. For the first time in her life, she defies Duncan and travels to Cairo – alone.
With a troubled family and a controlling husband, Beth feels she is finally taking control of her life. She has just registered with an Employment Agency when she meets Layla and her world is turned upside down. Before she knows it, she is on a plane to Cairo – the place of her honeymoon a decade ago. The room Beth has booked in Cairo is incomparable to the luxurious hotel of her honeymoon and being in Cairo is a daily struggle, even more so because sitting down in a coffee shop is not something Egyptian women are allowed to do – and not covering her hair makes Beth something of a target. But still, she loves wandering the streets of Cairo but she does have trouble finding Layla’s apartment with the directions given by Layla’s mother in England.
Beth is pleasantly surprised when she finally finds Layla. Instead of a defeated woman, Layla has grown in strength and found her goal in life, to educate and liberalise the Egyptian women – to make Egypt a better place for women, to strive for gender equality thus providing a better future for their daughters. The world Beth encounters is new to her, that of the poor, struggling to survive, that of a society in which girls and women are deemed the lesser species. When confronted with a little starving girl, she is horrified to learn the poor family only feeds their sons. Before she knows it, Beth is in the middle of it all and Cairo becomes a dangerous place to be, not in the least because of Egypt’s unstable situation due to the political unrest and general confusion.
This is the second novel by Dianne Noble I read and I loved it! In every book, Dianne opens a window to the world outside and far away but, when you think of it, much closer than we (want to) realise. Gender inequality and its harrowing consequences, that is what Oppression is all about – whether you live in our Western world or in the Far East. There is much that connects the two protagonists, Beth and Layla but then again, not. Layla, having grown up in a culture where the men in the family decide how women will live and arrange the marriages, has no choice. Beth, however, willingly married Duncan but allowed him to take control. Perhaps you find this harsh, it is not. I am not judging Beth but rather commenting that it appears one has the power to change her life while the other does not.
Yet Layla does find that power and I love her for it. Her strength of character is remarkable and she not only inspires other Egyptian women but also Beth. The friendship between the two women is endearing and wonderful to watch; by helping Layla, Beth becomes stronger and independent. The author has created lovely characters in Beth and Layla. Again, Dianne Noble has taken a societal topic and expertly woven a story of friendship and love, oppression and rigidity, around it. That is why Oppression is an enjoyable and entertaining read, an engaging novel that makes you think about the world we live in.
About the Author
Dianne Noble is one of those people for whom reading is as essential as breathing: she became a reader before she could walk, she amassed a vocabulary during her childhood years. Dianne Noble was born into a service family and found herself, only seven years old, sailing to Singapore, her teen years she spent in Cyprus; her marriage then took her to a life on the Arabian Gulf. The following years consisted of being a single parent with an employment history ranging from the British Embassy in Bahrain to a goods picker, a radio presenter and a café proprietor. All of this and the journals she writes when travelling provided her with inspiration for the novels she started writing after her retirement. Her first novel is ‘Outcast‘ and her second ‘A Hundred Hands‘ (my review); both these books are set in India and are based on the diaries she kept when doing voluntary work teaching English to street children in Kolkata.
|File Size||1755 KB (242 pages)|
|Publisher||Tirgearr Publishing (14 Jun. 2017)|