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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine


The Servant
 
Summary:
 
Faten’s happy life in her village comes to an abrupt end when her father arranges for her to work as a servant for a wealthy Beirut family with two spoiled daughters. What does a bright, ambitious seventeen-year-old do when she is suddenly deprived of her friends, family, education and freedom? Could the mysterious, wealthy young man who lives in the next apartment building help?

When Faten finally manages to make contact with Marwan, a musician and engineering student, he helps her figure out a way to pursue her studies in secret. Even against the uncertain backdrop of the civil war, their romance develops, as the two conspire to exchange notes and meet at an idyllic seaside cafe. But in Lebanese society the differences in religion, class and wealth are stacked against them, and their parents have very different ideas about what their futures should be. When Marwan’s mother chooses a girl who will make him a suitable wife, Faten must pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. She does so, despite the odds, pursuing a job, an education and her independence.

And, in the end, it seems there may be room in her life yet for romance, and hope for a future where young people can determine their own destinies.

An engaging and lucidly written coming-of-age novel. Faten struggles to fulfill her potential in the midst of her society’s rigid expectations. She’s a nuanced, complex protagonist that any teenager can relate to — stubborn, impulsive and full of longing, but with the determination and smarts to keep her real dreams in sight.
Summary & Cover taken from Goodreads.com
Length: 157 pages (Hardcover)
Available Formats: Print/E-book
Publication Date: May 1st 2013 by Groundwood Books
 
Back in December and January I signed up for many (too many) reading challenges and as per usual I am drastically behind especially with my Middle Eastern Reading Challenge which is why when I saw that my library had The Servant I had to read it.
 
The Servant was a really wonderful coming of age story about a young Lebanese girl named Faten working in Beirut during the late 1980's during a turbulent time in the city's history. Faten is a maid for a family but dreams of bigger and better things for herself and wants to be a nurse. Unfortunately her father forces her to work and takes all her pay leaving her stuck as the lives of others seem to pass her buy in her two years of servitude.
 
I really enjoyed this book because I love reading novels no matter the genre set in different places and this was the first book I've ever read set in Beirut and it won't be my last. There is such a sense of hope in Faten's story and I really connected to her as a character. I hated the way she was treated as a servant not as a human being but I loved how strong she was and how determined she was to get her education even if it got her into trouble I liked how the novel ended. It definitely ended on a brighter note and there was a lightness to it that was absent in the beginning.
 
This was definitely Faten's story and she was the main character and the most developed out of the rest of the cast of characters and I just wish they also had a little more substance which is why I did not give this book 5 stars. I enjoyed seeing Faten grow and become a strong independent young woman and thought her story was inspirational.
 
The writing is what surprised me most since I'm not usually a fan of shorter novels but author Fatima Sharafeddine created such a realistic story I was very drawn to the story. While the book was a short and quick read it did pack a punch and there was a lot of skill demonstrated in the way the author chose to tell her story.
 
Overall, this is probably one of the best YA books I've read this year. It was a nice change to read a book set somewhere else in the world and see life through another persons eyes during a hard time in history. Plus I loved learning about a culture that while I'm not totally unfamiliar with still has some mysteries for me and I enjoyed being exposed to it through reading Faten's story.
 
I would highly recommend this book to fans of contemporary young adult fiction that is set in a unique place with a strong heroine and a story about discovering one's own sense of self.
 
I read this book for the following reading challenges:
 
2013 150+ Reading Challenge
2013 Middle Eastern Reading Challenge
 
 
Really Liked It!
★★★★

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