House of Bilqis
Author: Azhar Abidi
May 2010 – $14
Originally published in hardcover by Viking Adult in April 2009, Penguin Book releases the second novel from Azhar Abidi, “House of Bilqis” this month in paperback.
Bilqis Ara Begum, an aristocratic widow, is dismayed when her only son, Samad, marries Kate, an Australian girl, and settles in Melbourne rather than returning home to Pakistan.
Samad asks his mother to join them but she insists on remaining in Karachi, presiding over the family’s crumbling estate, even while civil unrest and creeping Islamization are making the country more dangerous. Meanwhile, Bilqis’s servant girl, Mumtaz, becomes involved with Omar, an angry young radical resentful of Pakistan’s class system.
When this relationship threatens to destroy Mumtaz’s honor. Bilqis realizes that it is up to her to step in. With elegance and precision, Azhar Abidi charts the intertwining relationships of these unforgettable characters, amid a world rich with history but seething with a violence that threatens to engulf them all.
Azhar Abidi is he author of the novel, Passarola Rising. He has been published in SouthWest Review, the Australian literary journal Meanjin, and The Best Australian Essays 2004. He was born in Pakistan and lives in Melbourne, Australia.