Ali and Nino

READ THE WORLD – Azerbaijan: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

It is the eve of World War I in Baku, Azerbaijan, a city on the edge of the Caspian Sea, poised precariously between east and west. Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a teenage Muslim schoolboy from a proud, aristocratic family, has fallen in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Nino Kipiani, a Christian girl with distinctly European sensibilities. To be together they must overcome blood feud and scandal, attempt a daring horseback rescue, and travel from the bustling street of oil-boom Baku, through starkly beautiful deserts and remote mountain villages, to the opulent palace of Ali’s uncle in neighbouring Persia. Ultimately the lovers are drawn back to Baku, but when war threatens their future, Ali is forced to choose between his loyalty to the beliefs of his Asian ancestors and his profound devotion to Nino.

Ali and Nino is set in between 1914-1920, and as they live in Azerbaijan and have familial connections in Georgia and Iran it’s another story where you can see a different side of the First World War and its effects on people. There’s also an Armenian character that faces hatred from some characters who can’t even explain why they hate Armenians so much – that was an interesting historical note after reading Armenian Golgotha.

I have such mixed feelings about Ali and Nino and a lot of the mixed feelings are probably because the book is successfully doing what it set out to do. So much of it is about the culture clash between Ali and Nino. They may love each other, but they both have different ideas about how a home should be run or how marriages work that they often struggle to understand one another. It’s a love story that questions if love really does conquer all when you’ve got people who have religious and cultural ideals that often seem to be in conflict. It’s the first third or so that made me the most uncomfortable but as Ali and Nino both started to mature, I could understand both their view points and their conflicts a lot better.

The religious aspect of how other male characters consider Nino and how women and wives should be treated is something that made me feel uncomfortable when reading. Ali doesn’t necessarily share the same views, but he’s young and was raised with those ideals so there’s often times you can see them there at a subconscious level. One memorable quote is a friend of Ali’s saying that “We have a proverb in our country – A woman has no more sense than an egg has hairs.” It makes my skin crawl even though based on the time period/culture it’s set in there’s a good chance that that was a common thought. When they’re in Persia, Nino chafes against the rules of the society. She can’t leave her home without wearing a veil, she can’t talk to any male guests who visit their home even if they’re her friends too, she can’t go walking around town side by side with her husband – all these customs she’s unused to and it makes her miserable.

Nino is quite a modern young woman thanks to her upbringing – or rather instead of modern, the term should be probably Western. Because that’s where a lot of Ali and Nino’s conflicts lie. Azerbaijan is a country that straddles on the border of Asia and Europe, the East and the West, and Ali and Nino are representations of that divide. As Ali says, “For me it would be just as impossible to live in Europe as it was for you to live in Asia. Let’s stay in Baku, where Asia and Europe meet.” The city of Baku seems like the perfect mix of cultures, religion, and ideals, and the description of the city paints a vivid picture. The novel is solely from Ali’s point of view and his love of his home, the city and the surrounding desert, shines through.

Azerbaijan is one of the many countries I knew nothing about before my Read the World Project – to be honest, Azerbaijan was one of those countries I only really knew of because it competed in Eurovision – and I really enjoyed seeing it through Ali’s eyes. The fact that it is such a blend of cultures due to where its situated makes it so unique and I’d be interested to learn more about what the country is like today as Ali and Nino is set 100 years ago and ends just as Azerbaijan’s independence is threatened by Russia’s expansion.

Ali and Nino is a love story but it’s so much more than that. It can be dark at times with honour killings but there’s also a lot of light to it too. The conflict over cultural ideals and the sense of belonging each character has is thought-provoking and makes their relationship all the more interesting. They both hurt each other, intentionally or not, but there’s something about their relationship that makes you hope for the best and they’ll find a middle ground on the things that threaten to push them a part. 4/5.

Magical Readathon: Autumn Equinox TBR

It’s the most wonderful time of year – meaning it’ll soon be August and Magical Readathon time! The Magical Readathon is the brainchild of Gi at BookRoast on YouTube and it’s time for the seconf lot of exams. Previously the Magical Readathon was based on Harry Potter and its exams but Gi has now created her own magical world and university and it’s truly impressive. Like the previous iteration of the Magical Readathon, the aim is to read books that fill the prompts for the subjects you need to pass in order to be able to do the magical career of your choice. Gi’s announcement video explains it all and she has a variety of documents that can guide you. This round of the Magical Readathon, the Autumn Equinox exams, is a month-long readathon through the entirety of August.

In these exams/readathon instead of reading one book per subject, there’s now three levels – Ordinary, Qualified, and Distinguished – and depending on what qualifications you need for your chosen career you might have to read one, two or three books for a subject.

As I keep forgetting what my character’s biography is I’m going to make a note of it here and now. I am a human from the urban area of Kerador. I’m in the Archivists Guild, my Legacy is Aitvaras which is the Phoenix God of Sky and Riches, and my conduit is bone – I like to think I have a bracelet made of bone.

Originally the career I was aiming for was Moon Warden (and that will still be my priority) but I’m also interested in being an Illusionist Rogue. For Moon Warden I need a Qualified in Astronomy and Restoration and an Ordinary in Elemental Studies and Spells & Incarnations which totals to six prompts/books. That’s definitely doable for me so I’m going to throw in the exams to become an Illusionist Rogue for an extra push. Those are a Distinguished in Art of Illusion, Ordinary in Psionics & Divination and Shapeshifting making it five more books/prompts.

Astronomy: Ordinary – Letter “L” in the title
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska
Set in 1984 A Spare Life follows twins who are conjoined at the head, their life as they grow up considered freaks by even their family, and how they struggle to decide if they want to be surgically separated from one another.

Astronomy: Qualified – Books featuring archers/rangers
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’ve been rereading the Hunger Games books via audio from my library and I’m looking forward to finishing the series. Katniss is most definitely an archer so I’ve held off starting Mockingjay until August as it was the perfect book for this prompt.

Restoration: Ordinary – Single object the main focus on the cover
I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos or Foxfire, Wolfskin and other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie
My first choice was I, the Supreme which is a fictionalised account of the nineteenth-century Paraguayan dictator José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia but the pdf version of that looks a bit hard to read (formatting is all over the place) so if I don’t get another version before I need to read the prompt, I’ve got a short story collection of myths and fairy tales.

Restoration: Qualified – Oldest book on your TBR
Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
Technically I probably have some books that have been on my TBR longer but as I’m trying to prioritise my Read the World Project books, I’m counting Beyond the Rice Fields as I got the ebook in August 2020 which was a while ago now. Beyond the Rice Fields is set in the nineteenth century and it’s about the relationship between a slave and his master’s daughter.

Elemental Studies: Ordinary – Start a book with a drink
Saga Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
This could really be any book but as I reread volumes 1-5 of Saga in the Spring Equinox part of the Magical Readathon, I thought it’d be nice to carry on with the series during this readathon. I’ve previously read up to Volume 7 and it’s been nice revisiting this world and the characters and I’m looking forward to continuing.

Spells & Incarnations: Ordinary – Pick a book based on a random colour (blue)
Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
I used a random colour generator I found online and the colour it chose was blue which features heavily on the cover for Ali and Nino which is romance between a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in Baku in the years 1918–1920.

Shapeshifting: Ordinary – Book with wings on the cover
Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Most volumes of Saga feature a character who has wings but only a few of them can you see the wings on the cover. This is the next volume I need to read and you can see Alana’s wings.

Art of Illusions: Ordinary – Book you don’t know much about
The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri
My read for Gabon is definitely one I don’t know a lot about. I think it follows a woman’s life through university, to marriage and motherhood and how she deals with all of that.

Art of Illusion: Qualified – Book under 300 pages
Saga Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Again, it’s always a good idea to have short books/graphic novels/comics during a readathon and this volume will be all new to me.

Art of Illusion: Distinguished – Book based on a prompt from the Spring Equinox
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan
I went for the Artificery prompt which was Earth setting. So, a contemporary YA about two ex-best friends going on a road trip so one of them can get an abortion fits the bill.

Psionics & Divination: Ordinary – Book featuring time travel
The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I don’t think I have any time travel books on my shelves but I searched my library and found The Psychology of Time Travel is available on audio. I usually can get through a couple of audiobooks a month so once I finish Mockingjay I’ll borrow and listen to this one.

Are you taking part in the latest Magical Readathon? If so, what’s on your TBR and what career are you aiming for?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Summer 2022 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. I love setting a seasonal TBR even though my picks are hardly ever summery, wintery etc. My main focus at the moment is my Read the World Project as my self-imposed deadline is the end of September. I have 11 countries/books still to read so they are my priority. I have eight books on my TBR for my Read the World Project and two for the 12 Books from 12 Friends challenge. If you happen to know of any writers (whether their novelists, non-fiction writers, poets, or playwrights) from Monaco, Liechtenstein, or Tuvalu please let me know – they’re the last countries I need to find some sort of book for.

The Golden Horse: A Novel About Triumph and Tragedy Building the Panama Railroad by Juan David Morgan
My read for Panama is a saga of the events that transpired as a result of the rivalry between New York shipping magnates, William Aspinwall and Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the enormous personal cost that was borne by the people involved in the construction of the Panama Railroad built during the California Gold Rush.

A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska
My read for North Macedonia is set in 1984 and follows twins who are conjoined at the head, their life as they grow up considered freaks by even their family, and how they struggle to decide if they want to be surgically separated from one another. I have tried to read this once and couldn’t really get into it at the time because it’s more of a literary fiction style which I don’t read so often but hopefully second time’s a charm.

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
My read for Madagascar is the first novel from Madagascar to ever be translated into English and it’s set in the nineteenth century and it’s about the relationship between a slave and his master’s daughter.

Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
My read for Azerbaijan is a novel about a romance between a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in Baku in the years 1918–1920. Had this one on my kindle for a while and I think a historical star-crossed romance will be a pretty quick read.

Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian
My read for Armenia is memoir about Grigoris Balakian’s eyewitness account of the Armenian Genocide which happened from 1915-1918. I have started this, as in I’ve read the introduction and background info as it is a chunky book about a heavy topic, and I think when I do read it properly I’ll read it in parts so I don’t get too overwhelmed by it.

I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos
My read for Paraguay is a fictionalised account of the nineteenth-century Paraguayan dictator José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia. Out of all the Read the World Project books I have left to read this is the one I know the least about.

Weeding the Flowerbeds by Sarah Mkhonza
My read for Eswatini is a memoir about Mkhonza’s childhood at a boarding school in the seventies where there’s a lot of strict rules. Another one I did start for a readathon but couldn’t get into at the time. It is a short book at less than 200 pages so if I just sat down and read it I could probably read it in a day.

The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri
My read for Gambon follows Emilienne’s life through her university studies, marriage, children, work, and how she tries to search for what feminism means to her while dealing with cultural expectations and the taboos of sex and motherhood.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
This 12 Challenge book is one I don’t think I’d even heard of before it was recommended to me which is half the fun of the challenge. It looks to be a contemporary YA about a teen who’s struggling with his cultural identity and mental health. I don’t read contemporary YA that often so I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of it.

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
One of the 12 Challenge books. This is one I’d definitely seen people talk about online. I know it’s the first book in a fantasy series translated from French and that’s about it to be honest. I don’t really have the time to start new series’ but I’ll give this a go and see if I want to continue with it.

What are you hoping to read over the next few months?