Farishta

by Patricia McArdle (Riverhead) ISBN: 978159448

 

In McArdle’s debut novel, diplomat Angela Morgan is sent to northern Afghanistan to secretly assess the accuracy of the interpreters’ translations. For this assignment she learns to speak Dari. Angela, who lost her husband in an embassy bomb explosion in Beirut in 1983 reluctantly accepts the posting to this volatile country, with the promise of a post in London after a year.

 

Farishta means Angel in Dari. The name gets a deeper meaning when Angela introduces her solar ovens in a part of the region with a scarcity of wood for cooking. She manages to find her own place in the male dominated society and earns the respect of warlords and soldiers. She learns to deal with her panic attacks and develops meaningful friendships.

 

McArdle is a good storyteller. Her writing gives insight in the history and archaeology of Afghanistan, the role of the women and opium farmers. The main story takes place in 2004/2005, the same time as when the author lived there. Maybe because of these first-hand experiences the novel is such a riveting read.

 

McArdle, a retired diplomat, based the story of Angela Morgan on her own life. She was also a public affairs officer in Johannesburg and introduced straw bale construction as building materials to South African farmers.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

4/5

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