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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.1 out of 5
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All Book Reviews

  • A beautifully written and suspenseful story of Hus

    Gina Wilkinson based this book on her own experiences as a journalist and as a "dependent spouse" living in Iraq during the time Saddam Hussein was in power and during the Iraq War. When the Apricots Bloom is a beautifully written story about three women and how their lives are affected by Saddam's dictatorship. Ally is the young, naive wife of an Australian diplomat and Huda is a secretary at the Australian embassy. Rania, an artist and gallery owner, is the daughter of a Sheik, who has fallen on hard times since the death of her father and husband. Rania and Huda were childhood friends who have grown apart and reconnect during the story. Ally is searching for information about her deceased mother who worked in Iraq as a nurse in the 70s. Huda has been unwillingly recruited as an informant by the Mukhabarat, Hussein's secret police, to befriend and gather information about Ally. The Mukhabarat have threatened to put Huda's son in the fedayeen, a brutal, atrocious militia. Rania is determined to keep her daughter safe from Saddam Hussein's son, who has his eye on her. The story is narrated in their alternating points of view and provide the perspectives of a foreigner and two ordinary Iraqi women who must overcome the fear and mistrust, caused by the situation in which they have been placed. The characters were well developed and the reader develops great sympathy for their difficulties as "in Iraq, every friendship is a risk.” The descriptions of the danger and oppression suffered by the people of Iraq are terrifying and heartbreaking. The book touches on the history of Iraq and a better time when Iraq was thriving culturally and politically. Until the Apricots Bloom, is well-written, informative, riveting, suspenseful and highly recommended.

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    12 person found this review helpful

    12 people found this review helpful

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Fantastic fiction

    WHEN THE APRICOTS BLOOM is listed as historical fiction, but honestly this felt kind of like a thriller to me. The book follows Huda, Raina, and Ally and takes place in Iraq in 2002. The three women’s lives intersect, but they all have secrets that can tear their worlds apart. This book has a lot of secrets, a lot of “sitting on the edge of your seat” moments where you’re hoping the women find a way to make it out of the situation safely. Each of the women’s stories captured my attention, but I found myself really rooting for Huda especially. The story talks a lot about the secret police under Saddam Hussein’s regime, so there’s some mention of violence that some readers might not feel comfortable reading. Overall I found the book to be really interesting and thought the writing was phenomenal. One thing I was a little unsure of going into the book was a white woman writing about the experiences of two Iraqi women. The author’s note was really helpful in explaining that the book is drawn on her experiences of living in Iraq in a similar situation that the American/Australian character Ally was in. The author also acknowledges the need for “diverse books, written by diverse authors, in settings and situations that reflect the deep richness of our world”. Reading that put my mind at ease a little bit, but that does not mean this is the only book set in a Middle Eastern country that I will be reading this year. I’m looking forward to reading more books set in the Middle East by authors who are from the region. Thank you Bookish First and Kensington for my copy of WHEN THE APRICOTS BLOOM

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    9 person found this review helpful

    9 people found this review helpful

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Drew me in!

    The author does a very good job with this book! It may be a work of fiction, but since it is based on the reality of what it was like during the rule of Saddam Hussein from the experiences that Gina Wilkinson had while based in Baghdad as a former correspondent, it felt so real. This is told from the three viewpoints of Huda, Raina, and Ally. I liked all three women and it was easy to understand why they made the choices they made. Raina was a sheikh's granddaughter but has fallen on hard times in the new regime. She has a gallery and a daughter and Raina will do anything to protect her daughter. She and Huda are childhood friends reconnecting after a long time. Huda had it really hard being a reluctant informant (since she was lucky to get a job as a secretary for the Australian embassy) for the Mukhabarat who threatened her son, and bribed her and her husband for information about Ally. Ally was sweet, a bit naïve, and trying to find out about her mother (who had lived in Baghdad long ago before dying of cancer when Ally was young). She is a good person though and vital to Huda and Raina in their plans. There is violence and fear but this is a good book and I am glad I read it, especially since it ended on a good note and was not a tragedy like it could have been.

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    10 person found this review helpful

    10 people found this review helpful

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Fascinating book

    This is the story of three women whose lives intersect during the reign of Saddam Hussain in Iraq. Ally, the wife of the Australian deputy ambassador, Huda, an Iraqi working as a secretary at the Australian Embassy, and Rania a childhood friend of Huda's, whos family was wealthy and she was the daughter of a sheikh, but now are almost destitute. Huda befriends Ally, to be an informant to the secret police, because Huda's son is threatened. Rania is drawn back into Huda's circle because her daughter is threatened by one of Saddam's sons. Ally is looking for information about her mother who worked in Iraq in the 1970's. All three women have secrets that they keep to themselves, unless it benefits them to share. The terror, scare tactics, and targeting the most precious thing a parent has, by the Saddam Hussein regime, is balanced with the women coming together to help, console, and lean upon each other. Ultimately the question is, to save your family, what will a mother endure? As the great-granddaughter of a physician who emigrated to American from Persia/Iran in the early 1900's, I was intrigued by this book. From family oral history, we would have been in the same situation as Rania. Once having been part of the ruling class, then after the regime change, having nothing. The Middle East has always intrigued me because of my genealogical roots there. A fascinating book by a new author.

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    0 person found this review helpful

    0 people found this review helpful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

  • Interesting setting but too didactic

    The setting is interesting and the author clearly wants to give us the information we need to really understand the story, but the story itself is very pedestrian and dull. I'm afraid I gave up.

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    0 person found this review helpful

    0 people found this review helpful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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