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Sweet Dates in Basra LP: A Novel Paperback – Large Print, April 27, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jiji (Diamonds Take Forever) explores the ties that bind and break family, friendship, and love in 1941 Iraq. Heartbroken that her family won't allow her to marry at 13 and be ushered to the protection of a new home under the guard of a stern husband in the dewy marshlands north of Basra, Kathmiya Mahmoud is sent to work as a maid in the city of Basra, where her frequent visits to marriage brokers turn up no prospective husbands. Kathmiya begins fantasizing about Shafiq, her mistress's younger brother, and though the attraction is mutual, there's a massive cultural divide between his Iraqi Jewish family and her identity as a Marsh Arab. This chaste historical romance is densely populated and has trouble finding its way through a thicket of subplots, but the cultural perspective and setting are a nice break from the wartime norm, as is the unexpected ending. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

After her very modern debut, Diamonds Take Forever (2005), Jiji takes a trip into the past, specifically Iraq circa WWII. Next-door neighbors Sharif, a Jewish boy, and Omar, a Muslim one, are the best of friends and enjoy an idyllic childhood in Basra until Hitler’s shadow falls across the country, inciting terrible riots and forcing Iraqi Jews into hiding. The danger passes, but personal risks arise when Sharif falls in love with a beautiful Muslim maid named Kathmiya. Kathmiya longs for the safety of a traditional marriage and can’t understand why her parents refuse to arrange one for her. Though Sharif wants nothing more than to be with Kathmiya, he starts to wonder if his best chance for a prosperous future lies outside of Iraq, especially after his rebellious middle brother endangers the whole family by running off to join the Communist Party. Jiji does a remarkable job of evoking 1940s Iraq in her novel, from the colorful markets to the remote marshes, making for a vibrant read. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: HarperLuxe; 1 Lrg edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006198017X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061980176
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,700,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By labfs39 on July 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Kathmiya Mahmoud grows up in the marshes north of Basra. As a teen, instead of being married off as expected, she is sent by her alcoholic father to Basra as a maid to bring money into the family. In additional to the culture shock of life in the city, Kathmiya is tortured by family secrets: why does her father not love her like her older sister, Fatimah; why does no one want to see her married; what are the items left to her mother and her by the American missionaries for whom her mother used to work?

In her loneliness, Kathimiya turns to friendship with a young Jewish boy, despite the death sentence it would mean if anyone discovered their relationship. Shafiq has grown up with a seamless Iraqi-Jewish identity, but that identity is challenged throughout his adolesence by WWII, one brother's Zionism, another brother's Communism, and the collapse of Iraqi society as Britian becomes an enemy.

The story is a page-turner, but what I found even more appealing was the deft way in which the author created complex characters. Although Kathimiya and Shafiq are caught in a familiar forbidden-love situation, the characters themselves are far from stereotypical, with compex personalities and unexpected facets. Even minor characters are well-drawn and interesting.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Corpus on May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is an all out great story. It has love, peace and a portrait of a world unknown to many. The author draws on her rich family history and comes up with a story more powerful than The Kite Runner. It is a page turner! Great story-telling with a fine novelistic touch.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Live2Cruise VINE VOICE on April 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
This was a captivating story that I couldn't put down. Set in Iraq in the 1940s, it conjures an era not often written about: the intrusion of Hitler's ideology into Iraq. Set against this larger backdrop is the deep, abiding friendship of two neighboring families, one Jewish, one Muslim. Their sons, Shafiq and Omar, grow up calling one another "brother."

This is a touching look at how friendship and love can overcome prejudice and strict societal rules, to varying degrees. In addition to the friendship between Shafiq and Omar, it also explores Shafiq's forbidden feelings for a Marsh Arab maid. Themes of religious division (and unity of those of different religions) as well as the role of honor in Middle East culture, are explored honestly and with good historical detail. The plot was fascinating, although there were some twists that could be seen coming, and the writing lush and descriptive. A very good read.
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By bigboppar on October 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
A totally captivating and well told story that provides great historical and cultural insight. It has meaning, romance, and harsh reality--a very potent combination. I totally, without hesitation, recommend this book to you, and will tell you that I enjoyed it so much, I am highly motivated to read other books written by Jessica Jiji. This is definitely 4.5 stars.
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Sweet Dates in Basra LP: A Novel
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