Novella Review: Rafina by Shandana Minhas

Title: Rafina
Author: Shandana Minhas
Publication Date: May 23rd 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: PanMacmillan India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Infibeam || Flipkart
Blurb Description: Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I'm up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother's friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice. Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’. Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.


1.       This cover is pretty. AND, I mean VERY PRETTY.

2.       YAY for books set in the Desi/ Pakistani world. There can never be enough of them out there.

3.       I really hope this is a feminist journey.


1.       I’m just… not sure what I felt while reading it? It was sort of this mechanical read where I kept telling myself, ‘Oh, there’s only sixty three pages left. Let’s get to the end and formulate your thoughts.’ And then I reached the end, and I had felt and thought nothing of this book.

2.       Rafina is basically the story of this young, ambitious Pakistani girl who wants to make it big as she stares at a billboard next to her window, and I WOULD HAVE LIKED IT, except the actual making it big part, which we know happens from the blurb description, was all of three pages in the end and the REST WAS ALL ABOUT MAKING WAX, JUDGING WOMEN AND MAKING TEA. And, I was basically just confused.

3.       Also, there’s this last paragraph in the book that was just SO STRANGE AND DEGRADING, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.

And that’s… all the thoughts I have on this book. It was strange, and basically felt like a lot of filler and judging poor women based on their body type, size and appearance, and I didn’t really like it much.

This could have been so much more, but it just wasn’t. 
Shandana MinhasShandana Minhas, born on 26th October 1975 in Karachi, is an award-winning Pakistani writer. Her first novel, ‘Tunnel Vision’, a first person meditation on life as a woman in a man’s world (“In a coma, reduced to the sum of my biological function, I was the perfect woman. Pretty. Pliant. Docile. Accepting…”) was published in 2007 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It was later translated into Italian as ‘Pakistan Graffiti’. Her second novel, ‘Survival Tips for Lunatics’, was published in 2014. A “bitingly funny” adventure in which a bickering couple accidentally leaves their two sons behind on a camping trip in Pakistan’s turbulent Balochistan province, it became the first children’s book to win a general fiction prize in the region, taking the Karachi Literature Festival fiction prize in 2015. Her third novel ‘Daddy’s Boy’ – an “amorality tale” - was published in 2016 by 4th Estate. Mohammed Hanif called it “heartbreaking and hilarious”. 

Ms Minhas has also written for stage, screen and opinion pages. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, and been adapted for cinema. She is a college dropout, and a mother of three. She still lives in Karachi where she co-founded, in 2016, the indie press Mongrel Books. 
What was the last novella you read? What did you think of it?
What do you think of short stories/ novellas in general?
I'm not the biggest fan, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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