Blurb from Goodreads
“Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’
Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically.
‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love…?
Sofia Khan is not Obliged is the hilarious and authentic debut novel by Ayisha Malik.
HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! <<<<< THAT is the sound of the high pitched squeal I let out of me when I finished this book. LOVE IT!!!!
Chick-lits and women’s fiction in general so often seem to get a bad rep…
And sometimes I guess that is kinda earned because they frequently fall into the same old clichés and the same old storylines with only moderate differences! Maybe change the geographical setting, change the names of the main characters and their professions… And then it’s a case of slot these variations into the main outline!!!
Well not completely so with Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged.
This is fresh and funny. I laughed, and then I laughed, I laughed some more, I cried a little bit and then laughed a lot again!!!
And what really makes this book stand out is, it is a fantastic example of diverse popular fiction written by an #OwnVoices author, Ayisha Malik. Sofia, the main character is a British Muslim with Pakistani heritage and this COMPLETELY turns the chick lit genre on its head. So nice to see diverse representation in this very main stream, easy to read type of book.
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged has frequently been referred to as a Muslim sort of Bridget Jones’ Diary because the main theme of the book is dating and marriage prospects.
Sofia is thirty, living at home with her family who are always asking when is she getting married.
An opportunity arises at work for Sofia to write about Muslim dating and thus our story line is formed.
What follows is so freaking hilarious!!! I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I burst out giggling and laughing at some of the histrionics of Sofia’s life. Her family were written so beautifully well and the antics of her parents with regards to Sofia’s perennial single-status were always scene stealing but there were also beautifully poignant family moments scattered throughout the book which also made this feel apart from the usual chick lit fare.
And even though this is something that I would categorise as an easy read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has these amazing moments of clarity for the non-Muslim reader about what it must feel like to be constantly identified just for your religion. To be singled out for no justifiable cause.
There was one occurrence on the London Underground where Sofia was verbally abused because of her appearance (she wears a hijab) and it really struck a chord with me. Because really Sofia, as you would expect, is the same as any other thirty something year old woman. She obsesses over her job, her friends, her relationships, her family, her shoes!!
Just read this passage and see what you think yourself…
Before the doors closed I made a run for it, accidentally bumping into a man who was walking towards me. Accidentally. I heard him mumble something, but the doors were beeping and I was too busy pushing through the rush of people to really hear. As I stepped into the crammed carriage, the word finally penetrated my commute-fogged brain. I turned around, mouth open in delayed realisation. Terrorist? Me?…
Forget him, I rationalised to myself, you should be used to racist abuse, Sofia. Such flimsy words make no difference to me. It was a decent rationale, but didn’t quite do the job of putting my world back into balance. I stared at the ground and looked at my shoes: my lovely, teal, snakeskin, peep-toes (which, by the way, are offset perfectly by my coral scarf). I was like, hang on – I don’t look like a terrorist…
I looked up, and just as the doors were about to close, a very clear bout of logic possessed me.
‘Oi,’ I shouted. ‘Terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes, you ignorant wanker!’
I kind of hoped my usefully loud voice would carry. Of all the things in the world I could be, that was the brush he decided to tar me with.
But what was the point in my outburst?
The doors had already closed between us and he was long gone.
You know who wasn’t gone?
Me. Surrounded by a tube full of people who were now casting me sideward glances and inching away tentatively.
How is anyone meant to explain reasonably to a train full of people that they are not a terrorist? I mean, I work in publishing for goodness sake!
So I did the next best thing and in poised fashion focused on my book (or pretended to focus, as how was such a thing possible?).
Unfortunately I didn’t take into account that I was reading “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.
I need a fag.
What I love about that passage is the humour that is embedded into such a dark and troubling event. To be labelled a terrorist purely for your religion and faith is disgusting and I just love how the author juxtaposed the innately stereotyped ideas that many people have about Islamic clothing with a love for beautiful vintage shoes that many women would obsess over. For me this was a light fiction with masses of substance because of very witty and astute moments such as this.
But this being a book about dating what were the boys like I hear you ask????
YES!!!!!!!! There were some great hotties and banter.
This book was all about witty banter and flirtation AND I LOVED IT!!!!! Okay so Conall became my favourite boy but he’s Irish like me so that’s kinda natural but there are boys in here to suit all tastes and the evolution of each of their character arcs is great fun to follow and it being a romantic-comedy there are some hilarious interactions between Sofia and these various guys.
And it also features one of my favourite meet-cutes of all time in a supermarket!!!! Read it and swoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Also, this book FINALLY gives the elevated status that it deserves to the marvellous Lemon Puff biscuit. DAMN THEY ARE GOOD BISCUITS!!!!! If you like Lemon Puffs I would recommend that you read this book with a packet or twenty because there is sooooo much talk of biscuits!!!! They really are the universal food. Everyone gets what it’s like to sit down with a cuppa and a biscuit right???? To dunk or not to dunk? That is the only question worth asking!!! (I don’t dunk!!!!!)
At the end of the day, this is a chick lit so certain plot rules are followed and any fan of the genre will love the emotional highs and lows of the story and will very much feel moved by the ending, but to me, this book should have a wider reaching audience because it is so incredibly witty and a whole lot of fun to read, but most importantly it’s normalising of a religion that is sadly so often prejudiced against.
Sofia is a great main character. She’s immensely flawed as a human being and pretty much gets the wrong end of the stick all the time but she is so beautifully human. So gorgeously drawn and her heart is so lovely. As the reader I very much connected to her and her plight. She is a character that wants love but on her terms and isn’t that what we all want? Just to be loved and to be allowed to be the best version of ourselves?
I’ve already downloaded the sequel and can’t wait to see what happens for Sofia and co. in the next book. If it’s even half as funny I will be delighted!! So if you’re on the fence about reading this one, I suggest you get off it IMMEDIATELY and…
Some of my favourite quotes / funny bits:-
7 a.m. Ooh dear –jeans feel a bit snug. But it’s better to be a little bit fat and embroiled in a struggle to become a size eight than actually being a size eight –where would you go from there? It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey.
7.05 a.m. Wish the journey didn’t involve having a muffin top
I can’t believe it! *He* has pulled his finger out and set a date. Does this mean that people can change and surprise you?
Or did he just break under the weight of ultimatum – which is a charming story.
I asked whether she’s sure. I mean really sure –because humans are pretty great at self-delusion. She said she loved him, which didn’t really answer my question. But apparently if you argue with that logic (if that’s what you want to call it) then you’re a cynic, God forbid. That, and of course *she’s* thirty-one – funny how age is always inserted into the equation of love.
Ambreen, because she can’t help herself said, ‘Come on, Sofe! Find a husband.’
Honestly, married people live in a bubble –husbands don’t just pop out from nowhere, like a jack-in-the box.
I ignored her, and Ambreen’s mother-in-law looked at me and said, ‘See, Sofia, this is progress. Ambreen has two children now – what progress have you made?’
I stared at her for a moment and was about to say, ‘Well, I’m writing a book!’
But then I thought; if it doesn’t involve a human the size of a cantaloupe coming out of my vagina it mustn’t be very impressive.
6.17 a.m. Argh! Looked in the mirror. Shouldn’t I seem youthful and fresh given abstinence from partying and drinking? Maybe it’s that occasional cigarette . . . might as well join a convent and be done with life altogether –except I’m the wrong religion.
All the world’s a stage. And my unwieldy hijab is its curtain.
Read and reviewed on Goodreads in April 2017