The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon...a review

Do you remember when I read The Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi and I felt absolutely horrible because I hated having to write that I didn't like the book, especially when I had loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, also by Nafisi, so completely? Well, I haven't read anything else by Lemmon and with nothing else to go by...I didn't like The Dressmaker of Khair Khana...at all. 

I was excited when my book club first brought this book home for us. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, was quoted on the cover as saying, "[Dressmaker] is one of the most inspiring books [he] had ever read." Recently, Mortenson's own story has come under controversy for some very specific inaccuracies (60 Minutes), but the mere idea that he helped bring literacy to girls in an area that otherwise neglected to do so, is still a pretty great feat. I thought that if this man found someone else's story inspirational, that the story must be pretty remarkable.  

The book, however, does not read well. There are moments that are interesting; details about a Taliban controlled Afghanistan that slowly takes away the peoples' civil liberties, one after the other, until the Afghani women were essentially quarantined to their homes, unable to communicate with any man unless they were related. They were forbidden from work, education, and were not allowed to leave their homes in general unless with a male "chaperone".

Kamila Sidiqi, whose life we follow, was often left under the "guidance" of her much younger brother when in public. Her large family was separated as a safety precaution, and Sidiqi, her younger brother, and sisters, are left to support themselves with no realistic means to do so. Sidiqi begins making and selling dresses. The initiative, and courage, and self-confidence this woman has, is amazing. That aspect, is undeniable.

However, the fact that the author feels the need to convince me of how great Sidiqi is by simply telling me, over and over, how brave and strong she is...is just poor writing. Show me. Let me in on the details that make her so remarkable. There was no true climax and very little actual conflict. All in all, sadly, it was a very blah read and one I would not suggest.

Also, I have to seriously question how legitimate it is when other author's speak highly of a book. Do they share the same publisher? Does Greg Mortenson believe he is going to gain additional (positive) publicity by claiming this book to be an inspiration? Is Lemmon now going to say something similar in retribution about Greg Mortenson's books? I'm left grasping for positives and mostly just unhappy that the book cost $25.

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