Book Title: Rafina
Author: Shandana Minhas
Total Number of Pages: 280
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Publication Date: 23 May 2018
Genre: Fiction/ Novella
Link To Book (Amazon): https://amzn.to/2uGIEi2
REVIEWED BY SOHINEE DEY
When it comes to reading books, I haven’t read that many novellas. The reason being that Novellas tend to end quicker than novels and being a reader who loves stories to never end, I stick with novels mostly.
Shandana Minhas is known for her novels The Tunnel Vision, Survival Tips For Lunatics and Daddy’s Boy. So when I was presented with the opportunity to read and review her latest book, Rafina, I didn’t think twice. Also the blurb was really intriguing and who doesn’t love to read about strong women who don’t back away from fulfilling their dreams? The cover is equally appealing.
Rafina is the story of an ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams. Dreams that compels her to stare at card Girl on The Billboard every single day from the window of her home at Karachi. The lady on the billboard is an inspiration to her and she too wants to be up there one day and look down at the whole city of Karachi. She wants to be a model and wants people to her. All in all, she wants to be famous. Good for her. She has a dream and she wants to achieve her goal, what could go wrong? Apparently, many things.
They say that we should keep our head between our shoulder and not try to peek in through the clouds, but who would tell Rafina that its better to keep her feet on the ground and not reach for the stars right in the beginning, when she isn’t even walking in the same path as card girl? Its good to have an ultimate goal but daydreaming usually doesn’t do any good.
Rafina’s mother was the breadwinner for her household. After her husband passed away on duty, she had to start working even harder and fend for her family. When Rosie, Rafina’s khala (aunt) visits them to inquire about their well-being, she doesn’t miss on talking about the ladies parlour she works in. Rafina overhears the conversation between her mother and her khala, and makes an impulsive decision of working at the parlour as Rosie’s helping hand. Also, she believes apprenticing at the parlour will give her some experience on what goes on behind making someone beautiful.
She is a quick learner and soon finds herself adept at handling the expensive wax used for waxing. Not to forget she mastered threading too. Working at the parlour sure did prove to be fruitful for her when another door of opportunity opened before her. She grabbed it eagerly only to find herself working as a tea girl later on. But she didn’t lose her hope.
When she is always regarded as someone who is beneath all those models and professional workers, she becomes even more determined to put them all in their place just like they did once she becomes famous. Taking down snobs and people who always laugh at your dreams is quite fine. But what is not fine is turning into a snob in the process.
The rest of the story follows Rafina on her journey towards finding stardom speckled with all the misadventures she has to “brave”.
Rafina is a mixed character. All along I was confused whether I am supposed to like her or not. I am still perplexed as to whether Minhas portrayed her character this way where you would almost want to dislike her but then she would do something which would make you like her in that moment. So, I was in a constant dilemma. Right from the beginning of the book, Rafina is portrayed as someone who believes she has all the talents to be up there on the billboard. What I found unlikeable about her character was how she tended to belittle the people around her and often thought too highly of herself. She would always compare herself with the models and think that she is better looking than them and even think of some of them as fat and ugly. She was even rude to her mother when her face became ashen due to working too hard. She would comment on Rosie’s physique and would depreciate the way she looked, the way she walked and even the way she spoke. She had narcissistic tendencies but I was okay with that. But the minute she started downgrading others, even her mother, that’s when I grew an urge to dislike her.
If I forget about Rafina and talk about the other parts of the book, I would say that Shandana Minhas has a very impressive writing style. The narration has a great flow and doesn’t lag anywhere. Overall, the flow is consistent and it really helped me from giving up on the book. It didn’t get boring. Shandana has used very simple language but the way she has structured the sentences is what makes the reading process good. The blurb is sure to garner reader’s attention and the cover is also attractive.
I really liked Rosie’s character. Even if she was a supporting character, I felt she was more developed than Rafina. I didn’t see a character development in case of Rafina and that was a bit disappointing. Also, the ending of the book felt rushed to me. I was hoping for a clean end where I wouldn’t have any more questions after I close the book, but that sadly didn’t happen.
I won’t say that I am completely disappointed with the book. Disappointed with the character on some level? Yes. When I first read the blurb, I formed an image of Rafina who is a strong and bold woman, someone who knows what she wants and how she would achieve her goals. But upon reading, I found out that she is nothing like what I had expected and that was a tad bit disappointing.
Overall it’s a short read which would be ideal for a Sunday afternoon read.
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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