x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: A stitch not quite in time

In part-reportage, part-dramatisation style, the former ABC News producer Gayle Tzemach Lemmon tells the story of Kamila Sidiqi and her battle to provide a subsistence for her family during the difficult years of the Taliban occupation.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (John Murray)
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (John Murray)

No literary recommendation from Angelina Jolie can possibly bode well. Sure enough, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's revelation that she first tripped into Kabul on rubber wedge heels and was somewhat taken aback to find security restrictions in post-Taliban Afghanistan is wince-inducing.

In part-reportage, part-dramatisation style, the former ABC News producer tells the story of Kamila Sidiqi and her battle to provide a subsistence for her family during the difficult years of the Taliban occupation, working within the confines of an oppressive regime to come up with an innovative way to make money and do business.

There is little doubt that the life story of the plucky, resourceful Kamila is a worthy one. The trouble is its narrator, whose clunky, lumbering prose and clumsy dialogue do little to convey what should, in essence, be a life-affirming tale.

It takes her 120 pages to get to the heart of Kamila's dressmaking business and it is only around the 200-page mark, when Kamila's skills are deployed by international aid organisations, that her achievements are really allowed to shine. Unfortunately in a 234-page book, it is too little too late.