Africa · fiction · historical fiction · war

Women and War: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

Nadifa Mohamed inspired by the experiences of her own family, offers outstanding and ambitious book about war and its effects on people.

1988 Somalia faces the civil war that dehumanizes the whole nation. Through the eyes of three women, we come to know what violence and cruelty do to the people.


Three women meet at the very beginning of the book when Deqo, a girl that grew up on the street, is chased by female soldier, Filsan. An elderly widow Kawsar, comes to rescue the girl and pays high price for defending her. Then the author reveals in separate chapters the story of each heroine.

Somalia is one of those places where women suffer severely because of the war. What war and conflicts do to the women is horrifying and heart-breaking. Story of Kawsar’s teenage daughter is blatant evidence of it. The girl got to the custody with other students and after she was released, she changed  and her mother was unable to help her. The girl never revealed what happened to her but after some time she decided to take her own life. She was not the only one, there were many young girls who set themselves on fire…

Usually only men are identified with war, defence of the state or rebellious movements. However, in this book the author shows that women get involved too. Kawsar got involved in street protest, Filsan was a soldier and her duty was to defend the status quo of the Somali state. Moreover, that was Filsan who beated Kawsar at the beginning of the story and made her invalid. Can we excuse Filsan and say that she was following the orders? Or, should we blame her environment or family for making her a monster? Every reader will make own judgement after reading the whole story.  The author shows that nothing is just black and white and during war people make many bad decisions and must bear the consequences.

Deqo was an orphan who grew up on the street. When she found shelter in brothel house she was able to keep herself away from what was happening there. In my opinion, she is the most memorable heroin. Despite everything, she stayed herself- a fighter!

In country like Somalia, women are expected to find sense of life next to husband and children. Filsan failed all expectations that society has about women. She spent her life in army, never got married and never had children. Her story shows that even in traditional societies there are women who do things their own way.

The author does not refer only to the hardship that women go through during war time, she refers to cultural issues too. The inhuman ritual of genital mutilation causes unbelievable pain and life- threatening medical complications. Mohamed emphasizes that the pain reaches every woman, years and decades are passing and girls still are victims of this barbaric custom.

The final scene is so moving!  After everything what those three women went through they were able to forgive, unite and survive. That is the happy ending people deserve. Little Deqo finally got what she so desperately longed to- a family!

I love Nadifa Mohamed’s writing style. She describes the most wretched moments of human existence in such an outstanding way. The vivid picture of what war does to the people left me speechless. This is one of those books that stay in my memory for very long time.

The beautiful tittle and cover reflect the content of the book. The Orchard of Lost Soul is a tribute to both war’s victims and survivals.

One of those books that you must read. Very well- written!

The overall rating: 5/5


10 thoughts on “Women and War: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

  1. No, it does not contain any graphic elements, which is good thing. At the end of the book you can find interview with the author and learn something about her motives to write the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love history. I recommend a pro-woman story. A book called “A town like Alice”. About how a group of women survived the WW2 in the tropics. Also a amazing movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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