Friday, 26 April 2013

Review: The Honey Thief

The Honey Thief
Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

'When I sleep, I dream Hazara.'

The Honey thief reveals the history of Afghanistan through the tradition of storytelling. Najaf Mazari is an Afghan refugee living in Australia and a member of the Hazara. The stories in this collection revolve around the Hazara and their own history going back thousands of years. The stories remain separate from one another but are also interlinked and woven together with skill. From a master musician to a master storyteller, to a beekeeper and a young boy and girl entranced by Huckleberry Finn, these stories cover the history of the Hazara people, their ups and downs and never ending courage.

Storytelling and particularly the oral tradition of storytelling is a running theme throughout the collection, not in the least because the stories where themselves told by Najaf Mazari to Robert Hillman. Storytelling in this collection is shown as the link between generations and a way of both creating and communicating the history of the Hazara. We realise this is going to be an important theme towards the beginning when Abbas and his grandfather share stories.

'Take the books with you. We will read them together, that will be best.'

My favourite of the stories is The Behsudi Dowry. That's not really hard to predict because it does involve books. It talks about the power of books to forge connections between people and bring families and lovers together. It ends with this brilliant line: 'Love is not the smile. Love is the struggle before the smile.'

I really liked how it starts and ends with the story of one particular character, Abbas. Although the stories sometimes seem totally disparate, Abbas links them together. He grows through the stories from a young boy to a husband and father and he becomes familiar to us as we go through the history of the Hazara. I thought it was lovely how Abbas seems to have an obsession with a 'vacuum' flask. it pops up in a couple of the tales as Abbas tries to work out it manages to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. His hunger for knowledge is quite inspiring.

The book itself is gorgeous. The cover is lush and feels pretty luxurious. There are a few nice extra touches inside too that might come as a bit of a surprise including a selection of recipes. There is also a useful glossary of terms. It is these few extras that really make the book quite special, it all feels very well thought out and presented. It's pretty much a delight from cover to cover.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a copy to review.


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