Born in England and raised on her father's fantastic stories of an Afghanistan she had never known, Shah spends her adult life searching for a mythic place of beauty. "Any Western adult might have told me that this was an exile's tale of a lost Eden: the place you dream about, to which you can never return. But even then, I wasn't going to accept that." What she finds is a place ravaged by decades of war, poverty and, later, religious puritanism. Shah first visits Afghanistan in 1986 as a war correspondent at the remarkable age of 21 and later returns as the documentary producer of Beneath the Veil, an expos of life under the Taliban that predated the national interest in the embattled country. Her journey forces her to reconcile the vast disparities between fact and fiction, the world she has pieced together from her father's tales and the reality she glimpses from behind the grille of the Taliban-imposed burqa. Shah weaves legends and traditional sayings into her text, lending a greater context to her expectations and experiences. She also offers a piecemeal history of Afghanistan to accompany the accounts of her travels, but for readers unfamiliar with the many years of political tumult Afghanistan has suffered, the history may not be thorough enough. Most compelling are the characters she encounters and their indomitable spirit, including a woman with 10 children who asks her about a "magic" pill to prevent pregnancy, and her husband, whose intense machismo is not enough to save him from the war.
This is not really a good review because I could not listen to the whole book, probably not much beyond the second disk, if that far. I was bored to death, didn't like the reader's voice or tone, and I was not alone in this opinion. But perhaps just this little info helps...perhaps not.
This is a really great read about a journalist's return to her homeland of Afghanistan. Her remarkable trip is desciribed vividly. I really enjoyed learning about the culture through her eyes as a returning woman who must go to extremes to see her country safely.
The vivid, often startling memoir of a young woman shaped by two dramatically disparate worlds. Saira Shah is the English-born daughter of an Afghan aristocrat, inspired by his dazzling stories to rediscover the now lost life their forebears presided over for nine hundred years within sight of the minarets and lush gardens of Kabul and the snow-topped mountains of the Hindu Kush. Part sophisticated, sensitive Western liberal, part fearless, passionate Afghan, falling in love with her ancestral mythchasing AfghanistanShah becomes, at twenty-one, a correspondent at the front of the war between the Soviets and the Afghan resistance. Then, imprisoning herself in a burqa, she risks her life to film Beneath the Veil, her acclaimed record of the devastation of womens lives by the Taliban. Discovering her extended family, discovering a world of intense family ritual, of community, of male primacy, of arranged marriages, and finding at last the now war-ravaged family seat, she discovers as well what she wants and what she rejects of her extraordinary heritage.