Book Review: Saffron in the Hay Yard by Farzana Aqib

The book like its title is a hidden gem within numerous available reading materials. I discovered it accidentally behind the desk of my bank’s manager’s office where a number of books were displayed. As I picked up the book and skimmed through it while waiting, I made up my mind to borrow it from the manager. At the end of the meeting with him I put forward my request and walked out with the book. I began reading it immediately, putting other readings aside and loved every word and scene of it. I have read and liked previously written work ( collection) of short stories) by the same author and needless to say that the author met my expectations from this book as well.

It is a Lahore based story and by author ‘s account based on true events. The writing is earnest and original without the sentimentality and cheap affects to move the reader emotionally. The reader becomes absorbed in the drama of two families as the author skillfully covers the lives and minds of the two families positioned at two extreme ends of the social class system. The dynamics within the supposedly privileged and unprivileged groups with position of power, wealth, and status facing fateful circumstances are described with such accuracy and depth that the reader experiences the same emotions and agony of the characters. One can visualize the physical surroundings as described and sense the smells and textures along with imaginary background music with dramatic impact. And reader cannot help but reflect on the conflicting priorities and values engendered among the elite and ruling class of our social system. At the same time the western cultural interface and inferiority complex inherent in our society are also highlighted within the plot.

Reading this book is watching a well produced tv drama with scenes unfolding amidst the mystery of a historical relic. This book offered me a very pleasant experience and change in reading a real life story without rubbing in my face the mundane facts of living in poverished circumstances. On the contrary the lives of slum dwellers and their pursuit for education and betterment of their stock are of inspirational value.

Hats off to Farzana Aqib for penning the social ills and hypocrisies embedded within our society and materialistic orientation of human relations in general. As much as I enjoyed it all I do feel that the final twists and turns in the plot and final outcome in favour of the protagonists would have been more appreciated if it was based on their genuine characters rather than their true identity.

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