When I got married, aged 19, it was a very happy occasion. I was very much in love with the man who became my husband, and (mistakenly, it turns out) thought that we would be happily together forever. It was a fun day, with family and friends, celebration and lots of drinking, and I felt like a princess in my stunning pink Salwar Kameez outfit.
By contrast, when Nujood was forced into marriage, age 10, it was a terrifying day . Wearing an outfit chosen by her family, she was forced to marry a man three times her age that she had never laid eyes on. The marriage was arranged by her father, against the wishes of Nujood and others of her family, the one concession to her tender years being her husbands promise not to lay a finger on her until a year after she started menstruating.
After a long days travel on dusty, treacherous roads, a hungry and tired Nujood arrived with her new husband at his home - a small shack in a village without running water, electricity, or telephone lines, miles from anywhere. Her husband soon broke his promise, using violent force to overpower her, and the women of her husbands household offer no sympathy, instead claiming that such a spoiled child as Nujood should be worked hard, and made to understand her lowly position in life.
Managing, after much desperate begging, to get her husband to take her to visit family members, Nujood desperately searches for some help, or at the very least some sympathy, only to be told that as a married woman, there is nothing she can do without bringing dishonour upon herself and her family . Desperate, she leaves the family home one morning on the pretext of buying some bread, and uses all of her money to take a taxi to the local judicial court, where she asks the judge for a divorce ... what follows is Nujoods struggle towards freedom, towards an education, and towards understanding, and perhaps influencing change within, her countrys culture.
This book was a fascinating read - not least because in Nujoods country, Yemen, divorce is still something very much frowned upon, and in the majority of cases remains something that is only within the husbands power to grant. Nujoods tender age at her marriage is something of a shock, but in fact underage marriage is incredibly common in Yemen, and within Nujoods own local community there is a saying 'To ensure a happy marriage, marry a nine year old girl'.
Nujood endured much hostility towards her decision, including some harsh comments from family members . Her lawyer, who was also female, was also targeted by the local media, and accused of trying to bring shame on the country. Nevertheless, within a country with a strong belief in religion, honour, and male dominance over the female, she was brave enough to find her voice and fight for her rights .
The book is easy to read, and I very much liked that it continued the story nicely for some chapters after the outcome of the court case, rather than ending abruptly. Obviously, Nujood herself did not write the book, I was instead compiled by Delphine Minoui from interviews, court records, and newspaper stories of the day . Despite this, I think it is Nujoods voice we hear coming through crisp and clear, and certainly some chapters contain some very innocent, childlike sentiments .
I recommend this book, as I found it incredibly interesting, yet matter of fact . It didn't dress up the story, and didn't contain any great amount of self pity - just a girl with a simple wish to enjoy a childhood, to be able to play with friends, spend time with loved ones, and go to school . And that, surely, is a right all children should have.
5 stars .