Sofia Khan is not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness Book Reviews
Author: Ayisha Malik worked at Penguin Random House as a Managing Editor for fives years and is currently a ghost writer for Nadiya Hussain and the debut novelist of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness.
Rating: Sofia Khan is not Obliged – ****
The Other Half of Happiness – *** (3.5)
Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged
I bought a copy of Ayisha Malik’s novel Sofia Khan is not Obliged after hearing about the novel on several BookTube channels.
The main character, Sofia, is a 30-year-old unmarried Muslim woman, living in London and working in publishing. Since I work in publishing, and love reading stories set in the publishing world, I was quick to pick this up after I heard about it.
The story starts with Sofia being racially insulted on the Northern Line on her way into work. From this experience she is given a book deal by the publisher’s she works for, to write a book about Muslim dating.
The story follows the ups and downs of Sofia’s dates with various men, and on her experiences of writing her book about these dates. As well as all the antics of her friends dating lives and her family life.
At several points, I was laughing out loud and nodding in agreement to Sofia’s statements. One of which was about the white-ness of the publishing industry. Diversity is a key issue within the publishing industry at the moment and Ayisha Malik has been in the thick of it.
Trust me to get a career in quite possibly the most white-centric, middle-class industry there is.
One of my favourite characters in the novel has to be Sofia’s mother, a woman who constantly complains about her husband, life and has no filter when it comes to her daughter’s lives or the realities of being a woman.
On a critique note, I struggled to remember which characters were which at some points as their names change from time to time. This is due to realistic reasons, such as slang and nicknames. Sofia is called Soffoo, Sweetu, Sofe, Sofia, Hain among others at times. This is a natural part of life, particularly in a Muslim household – when everyone is familiar and you call strangers Uncle and Auntie.
But the look into Muslim life was fascinating! Particularly the look into a modern Muslim community, what with the rules of prayer, marriage and the realities of today’s news with fundamentalists and terrorists. The book does not shy away from these realities but regularly reminds us that these bad people are the exception, not the rule.
I love Ayisha’s writing! And found Sofia Khan very easy to drop in and out of without forgetting anything.
I loved the diversity and the openness, even if the ending was completely different to what I expected by the middle of the book. Some of the characters were dropped too quickly and under-used at points, but I still found great enjoyment in reading it.
And I couldn’t wait to read the second book…The Other Half of Happiness.
Review: The Other Half of Happiness
I was lucky to receive a copy of The Other Half of Happiness within a few days of finishing Sofia Khan on Netgalley and I read it within a few days!
As with the first novel, the book was so easy to read and I looked forward to it every night on my commute from work.
The story is set a few weeks after the end of the first novel and is much like the first with surprising twists and turns along the way.
My main issue with The Other Half of Happiness, which I did not feel with the first, was that the story had a major twist in the middle of the novel which it had been setting up throughout the first half and then began fighting with in the second. As such the story didn’t flow as well for me.
The twist itself was a little cliche for my liking, but the characters were just as amusing and consistent throughout. Particularly Sofia’s mother – Lingerie! That’s all I’m going to say on that.
There’s a lot of traveling within The Other Half and it was great to see the religious aspects of the novel shining through, in the best light. Sofia’s explanation for why she wears her hijab was particularly moving and very much linked to Ayisha Malik’s beautiful faith.
Overall, both stories are great reads! Very well written, increasingly timely and important. They are the exception and they should be the rule! We need more inclusivity in fiction and this is the beginning of a great series – in which I hope there will be a third novel! – with diverse and real characters.
If you haven’t read these novels yet you need too!