Book Review: The Hour Past Midnight

The Hour Past Midnight is a glimpse of the unseen world of Tamil Muslim women, where little by little they raise their voice, to live as per their own terms and face time to time community hatred as well..

Written by Salma and translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom, The Hour Past Midnight is a beautiful journey into an unseen world of Tamil Muslim World. The Hour Past Midnight is full of women fighting little by little to live as per their own terms, to have their own voice in a world dominated by Men.  The story starts with Rabia, a young girl who is growing up in a conservative South Indian community. She describes her life day by day, what all the girls who have come to age are supposed to do and some of the things forbidden to them. One day, she and her friends sneak off to a picture during the month of Ramzan, unknowingly that it is an adult picture. They sit in the theater full of men, ashamed of the crime they have committed. Caught on her return home, Rabia’s mother Zohra beats her black and blue, crying over the sin her daughter had committed and how Allah will punish her one day.

Another woman, Firdaus in The Hour Past Midnight has been married to a wealthy man who lives and works in abroad. But on the day of her wedding night, she gives him one look and says ”I am not going to live with you, don’t touch me!”,and then shocked at her own behavior and thinking, how come she had a voice suddenly? How could she have been so daring to refuse a man at the expense of her family reputation? She returns back to her village to face allegations of being a whore and good for nothing, but she still lives on, fantasizing over a man she can never have.

The Hour Past Midnight speaks of such stories only. Rabia, Zohra, Rahima, Amina, Khadija, Firdaus, Farida and many more surviving in a  male-dominated world, making their small rebellions and compromises. Zohra has to deal with bringing up Rabia as a cultured Muslim woman who can serve her husband at the right time and as per the laws made for women of her community, Rahima has to marry off her daughter to a stranger whose background is not what she wanted and Firdaus has to deal with being an outcast in their small world.

Friendships are made and broken, families come together for a celebration and then fall away at the time of need, changes occur. Little by Little, the life around these women change forever. A beautiful journey of change and celebration of womanhood

Overall, The Hour Past Midnight turned out to be an amazing read for me. Though at the beginning I felt that the story is going at a very slow pace and many of the parts would have been edited. But later on I realized that those parts are really important to create a background of overall story. You get a sneak peek into a very conservative community set in a very different time, their customs, traditions and things which might not even exist any more thanks to the new India. When this novel was first published, it did not grab that much of attention. The Hour Past Midnight lays emphasis on the ethnographic details of these women lives, rather than being a work of art. The language is easy with full of references to common language of south, but it is still tedious. The novel is inspired from Salma’s own life, when she was growing up in a village near Tiruchi.

The book took me about 5 days to finish and is pretty long with 478 pages. The Hour Past Midnight is something that I stumbled upon and love it as well. Though this one is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is definitely a great book to read. All feminist readers and some serious readers, this one is for you!

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