Pomegranate and Fig

Zaheda Ghani

Pomegranate and Fig
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Pomegranate and Fig

Zaheda Ghani

‘The women arrive first, on an afternoon like any other, when Henna is safely enclosed behind her desk at school. They come to start a conversation that is both taboo and a normal part of life. A small, intimate group … precious stones decorate their necks and fingers, the sond, embroidery, on their pantaloons and translucent veils catches the afternoon light. Their eyebrows are groomed into elegant curves. They float on a cloud of perfume to Henna’s family home.’

A deeply moving novel about tradition, love, war and the sorrow & hope exile will bring.

Tracing the lives of three young people, Henna, her brother Hamid, and a man who will become her husband, Rahim, this lyrical and evocative story reveals the political entanglements and family dynamics that are heightened and shattered by conflict. Taking us from the streets of Herat in the 1970s, invaded by Soviet forces, to India in the 1980s and then to the suburbs of Sydney, Pomegranate & Fig vividly illuminates the disruption, displacement and tragedy that war unleashes.

Shortlisted for the Richell Prize, this is an unforgettable debut that heralds an exciting new Australian literary voice.


Pomegranate and Fig is a bittersweet tale that follows the lives of three people who have lived through the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s. Henna, a young woman and daughter to a famous artist, is told to push aside her dreams of becoming a chemistry teacher in order to focus on marriage and children. Her husband, Rahim, is an older man who is torn between his duty as a prosecutor to keep the streets of Herat clean from crime and his commitment to keeping his family (and himself) safe. Henna’s brother, Hamid, is protective of his sister yet struggles with overcoming the traumas of his past. But despite the internal conflicts each character faces, their courage is put to the test when a new war begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

Reading this novel, your heart agonises over the characters as they watch their ancestral home become unrecognisable before their eyes, witnessing the beauty of their culture, their religion and bonds with the community crumble away with the arrival of foreign soldiers, the propaganda announced every morning on the radio, and the assassination of politicians who seem to be replaced more and more frequently. You experience every emotion as you witness the heartache of leaving Herat, the escape to India, and then the hope that Sydney brings. It is a story that the author, Zaheda Ghani, holds close to her heart as her own family arrived in Australia from Afghanistan as refugees in the 1980s.

But in defiance of this tragedy, it is heartwarming and uplifting to observe how Henna, Rahim, and Hamid’s faith never waver, their love for each other never weaken, and their devotion to their country never dwindle. This is a story about love and loss, the strength of family bonds in wartime, and learning to call a new place home.

Aurelia Orr is from Readings Kids

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