Promising Azra is a book about torn loyalties told from the perspective of an amazing 16 year old girl. The story’s eponymous protagonist is an intelligent, ambitious and determined young woman who wants an education while her family feel indebted to her uncle and decide to adhere to an old cultural practice of arranged (and forced) marriage. This book is an important one that highlights an issue that most people would have thought was dormant but is in fact affecting many young people today.
This novel is the debut one from the award-winning writer, Helen Thurloe. The story is fictional but it is based on real-life events. It is obvious that Thurloe has completed lots of research for this because the whole thing feels quite “real” and raw in parts. It will also leave you empathising with the main character.
Azra has a few things in common with Josie Alibrandi in Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi. Both girls are studying at high-school. The two girls are also searching for their identity in contemporary Australia while also negotiating the influence of their heritage and culture and its impact on their teenage lives. In Josephine’s case the stakes weren’t very high but Azra’s is a different story. The latter is faced with a forced marriage at the humble age of 17. If Azra agrees to this arrangement then she will not realise her academic dreams and the marriage will be one that makes her family happy. But if she refuses then she can receive an education but the cost will mean that she is cut off from the people that she loves.
Promising Azra could have been a very intense and dry book. But Thurloe has done a fantastic job of telling a good story in an engaging way. She has also dealt with some tough issues in a sensitive and direct manner. Azra is an excellent character that you will instantly warm to and her conflict and struggle is utterly engrossing. This book is essential reading for anyone that wants to know about familial traditions and obligations and the hard choices that some of us are forced to make. In short, it can be quite heart-wrenching stuff.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-promising-azra