When I was a child I used to watch in bemused fascination the cricket that my Dad used to follow on TV. So although I've never been a cricket fan I've certainly always had a certain interest which was very much piqued when I came across The Taliban Cricket Club. (In fact I won the book in a competition on the Curious Book Fans' website.)
The concept of Afghanistan under the Taliban deciding to start a national cricket team is one of those audaciously bizarre plot ideas that really grabs the readers attention (though this unlikely seeming premise is actually true though the novel is entirely fictional).
Rukhsana is a young Afghan woman, educated in Delhi and a respected journalist before the Taliban prevented her from working (at which point she went undercover in her writing). She had learned to play cricket in India and when her brother and cousins get the opportunity to put together a team she coaches them.
Rukhsana is a brilliant character, who the reader can engage with immediately. She is feisty and likeable, pulled between her desire for freedom and her love for her ageing and ill mother. The novel is very well plotted, with the several twists and turns reading entirely naturally, while keeping the reader guessing all the time. The political background is really well drawn too and Murari does an excellent job of weaving telling political detail into the narrative without it bogging down the plotting.
It may be far fetched in some ways, but it's engaging, entertaining and well written, while offering insights into Afghanistan under the Taliban.
The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N Murari published by Allen and Unwin.
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