World Book Day 2014

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

So its ‘World Book Day’ in the UK and around the globe today, an event embraced by schools as children are encouraged to dress up in their literary favourite characters to embrace their love of books. I remember fondly how, my then much younger daughter would run out of school clutching her ‘World Book Day’ voucher, eager to visit the bookshop and choose a book, my boys however were never that bothered unless it was the latest Harry Potter .

I know it’s for meant for children, but as it’s a day to appreciate the written world, I thought I would share my review of the book I have just finished called ‘Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the global soul‘ by Jo Parfitt. This book was recommended to me by a fellow blogger in Dubai, Marianne who blogs at Circles in the Sand, so thank you Marianne! Old habits die-hard and while at the mall I went to the bookshop (love bookshops) to read the ‘blurb’ and really wanted to buy the book once I had it in my hand but with an exorbitant UAE  price tag (almost double the UK price) good sense kicked in and I went home and downloaded it on my kindle. (see previous kindle versus book post here).

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The book based in Dubai in 2008, is about expat life and follows the transition of ‘newbie’ expat Maya who finds herself in a ‘multicultural melting pot‘ meeting five other expat women, all searching for their individual meaning of life in Dubai, judged by many to be glamorous and facile. The book touches on a darker side of life in the expat bubble of culture shock, loss of identity, depression, temptation and grief.

Maya and her family arrive in the UAE in the midst of summer and along with the culture shock she is taken aback by the intense heat and humidity as well as the presence of a housemaid in her kitchen. As a ‘trailing spouse’ she struggles with her visa identification of “Housewife. Not allowed to work” after running a successful deli business in the UK. Maya eventually finds ‘herself’ in her kitchen, creating food with an arabic twist and through blogging, sharing her experiences online. At the end of the book, Parfitt has included all the recipes that feature in the story.

The plot is told from three points of view, Maya, her pilot husband Rich and outgoing American Barb, a serial expat who takes Maya under her wing introduces her to a circle of expat women who help her to find friendship and meaning in her new life.

A perfect beach read this book would appeal to any married expat women, anyone that is considering a move abroad with their family or someone who just likes a good story set in an exotic climate. As well as being entertaining, “Sunshine Soup” paints a somewhat pragmatic picture of the ups and downs faced by expat women looking for their identity in a new environment as well as personal fulfilment and self-worth and explores the stereotypes of nationality in the transient Dubai.

Parfitt has written this fictional story based on years of first hand experience of being an having been based in France, Dubai, Oman, Norway and the Netherlands. A professional writer for over twenty-five years, she has published twenty-seven books on various subjects, including non-fiction.

While I am on the subject of books and those set in this region, a while back in my pre-kindle days I read ‘Desperate in Dubai‘ by Ameera Al Hakawati. Also set through the eyes of a group of women, this book is more Jilly Cooper than ‘Sunshine Soup’ with the story touching on the more shallow and glitzy side of Dubai with its  ‘men, money, and Maseratis‘, describing Dubai as ‘the ultimate playground for the woman who knows her Louboutins from her Louis Vuitton’s.’

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The story follows the lives of four women Lelia (searching for a wealthy husband for over a decade), Nadia (moved to Dubai to support her husband’s career), Sugar (who escapes the UK in an attempt to escape her past) and more controversially Lady Luxe (a rebellious Emirati heiress, scoffs at everything her culture holds sacred). Double lives, posh hotels and materialistic values start to unravel as these women each try to find love and themselves in this super easy read. It was a great poolside read (until the glue melted in the spine), not an intellectual challenge in any sense of the word just a bit of fun, perfect for inclusion in your beach bag especially if you have ever visited Dubai.

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World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in countries around the globe. Now in its 17th year, World Book Day aims to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading. The initiative is a partnership of publishers and book retailers to promote books and reading for the personal enrichment and enjoyment of all.

Happy Celebration of Reading Day Everyone, I am off to start my next book ‘The Goldfinch‘ by Donna Tartt.

Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.