Reviewed here: No More Mulberries
A story to make you think This novel gave me a lot to think about. It was outside my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure if I would like it, however it had me engrossed from page one. It is the story of a mixed marriage, Afghan husband, Scottish wife, and their two children, who live and work as medics in Afghanistan. The mix of cultures fascinated me, as the story drew a picture of a very different lifestyle to that we are accustomed to in the west. It was like taking a step backwards in time to a more simple, basic life without all of the amenities we take for granted. The main character Margaret, who has embraced the muslim faith and changed her name to Miriam, is not fazed by the conditions in which she lives. The stresses come from her relationship with her husband Iqbal, and her inability to resolve her grief due to the death of her first husband Zawad. But it was the descriptive narrative and the culture that fascinated me the most. However, I did notice that a lot of the minor characters had the same first name, there were several Dauds and Anwar’s for example, but this did not lead to confusion, and I had no trouble identifying each character as they appeared, the characterisation was so good.
This book was an excellent story and, although there is conflict within the pages and most of the men seemed to have Kalashnikovs, this not a war story. I would highly recommend it for your reading list. Reviewed by Chris Longmuir
Fascinating and Compelling This is one of the most fascinating novels set in a country I knew little about. The story of Scottish Miriam who lives in Afghanistan with her second husband, Dr Iqbal, is so full of atmosphere and detail that it is no surprise the author worked in the country at one time.
It is certainly an important book that outlines the lives of the ordinary people and which gives a voice to the interesting women of that remote area. This novel makes the reader care what happens to every character and leaves us the richer for having read it. Reviewed by Romy Gemmell
I’ve never been to Afghanistan. I never will. But I know that the picture we get of the place from the news isn’t the real Afghanistan. Mary Smith’s fiction gives you a much more real sense of the place. It also gives you the sounds, smells and tastes of what life is like for real men and women living in Afghanistan. I thoroughly recommend it. Buy it and find out how fiction can be more real than the manufactured reality of news “fact”. Reviewed by Cally Phillips
Mary Smith in her own words…
I’m a freelance journalist, non-fiction writer and poet based in Dumfries & Galloway, south west Scotland.
I spent ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan and my first novel, No More Mulberries, is set in Afghanistan. After collecting a folder of rave rejections by publishers and being taken on by a London agent who collected, on my behalf another dozen rejections – all glowing – before losing interest, I had it published by YouWriteOn.
YouWriteOn, funded by the English Arts Council, doesn’t charge for publishing but nor does it do anything in terms of promotion – it’s all up to the author. This has been a steep learning curve and I’m still learning. Sales have been steady – as long as I keep active on the promotional side but recently YouWriteOn was taken over by something called FeedARead who immediately put up the price of No More Mulberries and sales have slumped.
As the author published by YouWriteOn retains all rights I was able to publish No More Mulberries as an eBook for Kindle (and other eReaders, but the vast majority of sales are for the Kindle edition). Again, marketing and promotion is up to the author, something which Amazon has made more difficult by denying Indie authors the chance to promote their books on the discussion forums.
I would certainly do more ePublishing on Kindle. I think those authors with several titles out do much better and can benefit from promotions such as making a book free for a period of time in the hopes it will lead readers to buy other titles. Up to me to get writing, then!
I have a poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, coming out in September, published by Indigo Dreams (www.indigodreams.co.uk) and I’m pleased this will be in old-fashioned paperback format. Although I love my Kindle I find it not so good for poetry – you can’t dip into a kindle in the way you do a book. Indigo Dreams are also re-publishing a narrative non-fiction book, again Afghanistan-based, with extra chapters added to bring it more up to date. It’s called Drunk Chicken and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women and will be published in November.
It’s going to be interesting to see how it works out. The publisher will send out review copies and send out advance information to booksellers, which is more than YouWriteOn or Kindle do but mostly, the marketing of these books will be down to me.