Book club discussion notes: Forbidden lessons in a Kabul guesthouse by Suraya Sadeed

The First Wednesday reading club met on 7th March. The book discussed was “ Forbidden lessons in a Kabul guesthouse: the true story of a woman who risked everything to bring hope to Afghanistan” by Suraya Sadeed. This is a biography set amidst some of the most inhospitable conditions in war-torn Taliban-seized Afghanistan.  It is an adventure story telling of Sadeed’s inspiring fight to bring aid, education and peace training to Afghan citizens.

Most of the Reading group liked this book.  Some people found it totally believable, others didn’t.  People were divided as to the motivation of the author.  Was it a salving of conscience?  Some people felt that the story was too over the top and that the ghost writer/publisher may have pushed the story in a certain direction so that the book would have better sales.

 Some readers felt that the style was jerky and that there were some questions left unanswered- for example how did the woman get through check points-bribery?  Readers also found it hard to believe that the secret schools weren’t discovered by the Taliban and also concerning the medical treatment of females. Although the author wanted to see the Taliban ousted she did come across some of its more moderate members.  Though some participants did not warm to the author they did report that parts of the book reflected generosity of spirit, determination, persistence, and that the ability to live in squalor showed a true survival instinct.

 The book did make readers want to read more about Afghanistan, especially about some of the issues raised such as the frightening camps, the lack of education and health care, and homelessness.  They would be interested in meeting the author: they have lots of questions about the everyday realities of life for women in this country.