Posted by: billpurdue | October 2, 2011

A surprisingly good read

Good books seems to be like the proverbial London buses (not in my neck of the woods where buses are a lot less frequent) – I can find nothing that really grabs me and then three or even more come along almost at once.

There was Debo’s Wait for Me!, followed by Alan Bennett’s Smut and now Poppadom Preach by Almas Khan [Simon and Schuster £7.99 9781849832113]. Set in Bradford in the 1970s, this is the story told by Dilly , a young Muslim girl growing up in the back streets of the city. I must admit that I did wonder if it might be a novel aimed at teenagers from the cover design and the wording on the front, but turn the book over and read the blurb on the back and you’ll find that certainly isn’t the case.

Dilly is a member of a chaotic household consisting of her father, who has a violent temper and is hated for it by all his children, her mother, who spends a large amount of time spying on neighbours, planning the weddings of her children and threatening to kill Dilly or her siblings when they misbehave. Dilly has one brother, Monkey and four sisters, one of whom, Daisy,  was sent “back home” soon after birth to be cared for by relatives. Her father’s sister, Auntie Climax (!) also lives with them along with her son Doc. Dilly is always getting into trouble – as the blurb states, she grows up “spirited and mischievous”. One by one, marriages are arranged for the children as they approach the suitable age.

Monkey is the oldest and so is therefore the first to have his marriage arranged for him. He’s not happy and things are not made any better by the fact that he is not allowed to see his bride (a cousin from back home) until the wedding day. When it’s Dilly’s turn, she is also betrothed to someone she has never met, but towards the end of the book she is told that the wedding is off as she is the one chosen to stay at home and help her mother. But then the story takes another twist before the end.

This book may contain violent scenes and have some strong language from time to time, but in spite of all that, it is touching and sometimes hilarious. Almost from the very beginning, I found it un-put-downable. I will include it in my list of recommended reads for 2011 and it could be a suitable reading group book too, as it raises a number of issues which group members can get their teeth into. At the very end of the book, it seems to me that there is strong hint that a sequel might be forthcoming – I will await that with interest.

Just Published..

A 21st century theme for a new novel  by Neal Stephenson: Reamde [Atlantic £18.99 9781848874480] – yes I have spelt it right – is all about how the onscreen internet fantasy role playing game moves over into reality as Chinese hackers release a dangerous computer virus (called “Reamde”) aimed at gamers worldwide. The plot sounds quite complicated – involving as it does the Russian Mafia, the Chinese Secret Service, al-Qaeda and American Survivalists and others. Certainly plenty to keep the reader occupied!


  1. Hi Mr Purdue, I’m glad you enjoyed Poppadom Preach, and just wanted to say many thanks for the great review! I’ve used a snippet from it on my website – I hope that’s OK with you.
    Best wishes
    Almas Khan

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