It was with some excitement that I opened the first page of Sarvat Hasin’s debut novel and prepared to become fully immersed in a mesmerising story of four sisters, their devotion to their mother, fondness for a father largely absent as a result of war, and their friendship with a young boy who lives across the road. My anticipation was further piqued because the tale is rooted in Karachi, a city in which I spent the early part of my childhood and to which I feel inextricably linked by family connections and an accumulation of memories. What’s more, the blurb on the jacket compares This  Wide Night to a novel for which I hold particular affection.

Anyone who has read Little  Women by Louisa May Alcott will immediately grasp that this was a ‘remake’, due to the many parallels between the two books. The synergy ranges from the fact that both novels are set during a time of fighting and upheaval: Alcott’s covered the American Civil War in the late 1800s whilst Hasin’s is set during the India-Pakistan struggles of the  1970s, culminating in the creation of Bangladesh. Both works of fiction also explore similar themes, such as domesticity, work, and the constraints placed on women in society, reflected in the conflict between the accepted way of raising females and a more progressive approach which focuses on encouraging girls to think beyond their personal and societal limitations.

Sarvat Hasin, This Wide Night, Penguin Random House India, Delhi, 2016

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