Review: Jamilia – Chingiz Aitmatov

Book cover: Jamilia looks into the distance

While preparing for Asian Lit Bingo, I realised that I couldn’t think of any literature with a central Asian main character. And then I remembered Jamilia, which I came across while working (I work in a secondhand bookstore). I wasn’t sold immediately because it is praised as “the most beautiful love story in the world” (Louis Aragon). However, I couldn’t think of another possibilitiy for the square and thus I decided to give it a try. I’m SOOO happy that I did.

Told through the perspective of Jamilia’s brother-in-law, the reader is shown the love story of Jamilia and Daniyar. It is set in a village in Kyrgyzstan around the time of World War II.

It’s #ownvoices.

Beautiful. It is the most unassuming love story that I have ever read. Very calm and romantic but so serene. Without a doubt, this is also the quietest love story that I’ve ever read. I did not expect this at all but it was wonderful.

I’m usually quite hesitant about romance stories, which is why I was very unsure about this book before I started reading it but it’s not what I thought it would be – it’s certainly not what I would categorize as a typical romance novel.

I love that it is narrated by Jamilia’s brother-in-law, Seit, which is rather unusual as love stories go. It led to the reader being treated as an outsider to the couple’s relationship, much as it is in the real world, where we don’t know the full extent of how people in a relationship feel about each other and never find out everything single detail of what they do together. The narrator is an artist, a painter, and this is most seen in his descriptions of the Kyrgyz landscape. The landscape descriptions are described through his words, thus seeming to be more painted than realistic. I don’t usually like them in books but it all added to the overall feeling of calmness that this book conveyed, making them a suitable frame for the love story between Daniyar and Jamilia.

The people in the book may be far away from the frontlines of World War II, but that does not mean that the events of the war don’t influence their lives. This book shows the indirect and direct ways of how the war impacted the lives of the characters in the village.

The story is quite short however I hardly realised it while reading. It’s also quite slow-paced and doesn’t build up momentum, relying more on simple and quiet scenes. This made it a very relaxing read for me.

Jamilia is a wonderful story. I’m so glad that I ended up reading it because it gave me one of the calmest and most beautiful reading experiences of the entire Asian Lit Bingo month. It was also a welcome change in the midst of the many fast-paced books that I had been reading. I’ve got another one of his books and I’ll be reading it as soon as I find the time to do so.

5 stars

Have you read Jamilia? What did you think of it?


5 thoughts on “Review: Jamilia – Chingiz Aitmatov

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