29 July, 2021

Servant's Quarters

A novel knowledgeable about wealth, sentimental about poverty.

Servant's Quarters
THIS debut novel by Pakistani writer Uzma Aslam Khan revolves around two mothers—one a maid, the other a mistress. Set in Karachi, the book belongs to the well-worn genre of fiction written by the well-to-do about their servants—which, in my book at least, is adding insult to injury. Story of Noble Rot—the title refers to a kind of French wine, or, more precisely, the grey mould that forms over the muscadelle grape during fermentation—is a novel knowledgeable about wealth, sentimental about poverty.

Malika is the maid in the story. She's driven by her desire to rescue her son Momin, a child labourer in a carpet factory. The wife of the factory-owner is Mrs Masood. She is the mistress in the story and, when the book begins, we find her wanting to buy a bed for her soon-to-marry daughter. Conveniently, Mrs Masood comes to Malika's house whose husband's a master carpenter. Later, Malika joins Mrs Masood's house as a maid and engineers what we could call social change.

If the Bronté sisters could achieve fame writing about maids making...

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