Book Review – Fatwa: Living With a Death Threat by Jacky Trevane

The Blurb:

“Jacky was twenty-three when she arrived in Egypt for a holiday with her boyfriend, Dave. Little did she know that an innocent holiday would result in a horror beyond her imagination. Separated from Dave in a bustling street, Jacky fell and twisted her ankle, only to be swept up by a handsome, chivalrous Egyptian called Omar. It was love at first sight. Jacky spent those ten days living with the family – sharing a bed with Omar’s sister – irresistibly attracted to Omar. Swept away by her infatuation she married him and converted to Islam before returning to England to her parents.

Returning to Cairo against her parents’ advice but full of hopes and plans, Jacky’s dream turned into a nightmare. As a blue-eyed blonde she was never going to fit in with life in a poor suburb where the women walked at all times with their heads bowed. During the next eight years she suffered non-stop physical and emotional abuse. She had to escape with her two little girls but how? This tense story never quite ends. Even now, Jacky is living in the shadow of a death threat. A fatwa is issued legitimately under Islamic law to a Muslim woman who leaves her husband. Jacky to protect herself and her daughters minute by minute, day by day, never quite sure what may be around the corner…”

(source: Amazon)


  What I thought:

I found this a really interesting book and certainly one that had me turning those pages; the very nature of the content and the fact it’s a true story is the books forward momentum.

The story begins in 1979 when Jacky goes on holiday to Egypt with her then boyfriend whom she gets separated from when they try to get off a bus in Cairo. Jacky finds herself alone, with a twisted ankle,  in a residential area and is picked up by two young Egyptian men who escort her into the nearest appartment where she is welcomed by the family who nurse her until she can walk again. The appartment is small and Jacky can only communicate with the 15 year old daughter who is learning English at school but she is drawn to Omar, one of the older brothers and even though they can’t speak to each other there is clearly a mutual attraction. Over the next two weeks the family take Jacky on outings around Cairo and further afield and Jacky finds herslef falling in love with the family and also with Omar (they both discover that they can just about communicate to each other in French and their friendship blossoms). Before the holiday is over, Omar has not only proposed to Jacky and talked his family but they have also married.

Over the next eight years in Cairo, the once mild mannered and loving Omar changes into a controlling and angry man who beats his wife on an almost weekly basis and makes her life a living hell. The conditions and squalar that her and her children are forced to live in is a world away from the life she knew back home and rather than upset her parents she writes home about the good life that she is living and how happy she is.

The book opens with Jacky and her two children’s attempted escape back to England, from Cario to the Israeli border. There are so many challenges along the way that even though the escape has been long planned down to the minutest detail, we are still routing for her and wondering if she will actually make it. The answer doesn’t come until the end of the book.

Having lived and worked in the Middle East and spent a lot of time in Egypt, books of this nature do interest me. This is one of the better ones, I feel, as it is written in a way that is accessible to all (it sometimes has the feel of a YA book in its narrative, which I actually think is a good thing -allowing it to be read and understood by different audiences).

The book is the story of what happened to Jacky in the early 80’s and it is possible that things have changed since then (with more access to media from across the world) but even so this is a pretty stark warning to think before you act.

Good book. Recommended.

Edit (20/08/10):

I had a comment left yesterday which I have chosen not to approve for the reasons stated below. The comment came from someone called “Omar” (the name of the husband in the book) and said the following:

“jacky trevane is realy very ill and she realy need adoctors” (I have copied and pasted the exact wording).

I am adding this edit to the bottom of this post for a couple of reasons: 1) If I approve the comment that was made it will then mean that the person who made the comment will be able to post again on my blog and I don’t want that, 2) The comment was made on the wrong review so would make no sense to anyone reading that particular review, 3) I have seen this person (the email was visible for me to see) comment on other sites on the internet, all of which were derogatory towards Jacky Trevane, the author of the book and woman who suffered the horrific abuse at the hands of “Omar”

My opinion on this comment is that this is possibly either the real Omar or someone who knows him (he leaves comments in various places so I can only guess that he has some connection to the family at least as he seems to have a vested interest in tracking down any reviews about the book).



15 thoughts on “Book Review – Fatwa: Living With a Death Threat by Jacky Trevane

  1. I must know what happens! I’m going to see if this book is in our store. I don’t think it is; our bio section isn’t huge. My burning question, though, is what happened to Dan? Going on holiday to Egypt together must have meant they were pretty serious. Did they not look for each other, or did he not worry about here? The whole thing is so bizarre!!


  2. this sounds wonderful ,I m always awaiting something meaning ful from Rushdie on this subject as he had the fatwa too ,the whole egyptian society is intriuging ,was listening to interviews the other day with people involved in the muslim brotherhood ,all the best stu


  3. I read this book a few years ago and found it very interesting and shocking. Jacky’s life turned into a nightmare which started from twisting her ankel whilst on holiday with her boyfriend. But what makes this book even more of must read is that it is a true story. Boof has certainly covered the book very well indeed without giving anything away. This book is not set in the days of old, but in our modern times.


    • It’s so shocking that it’s a true story, isn’t it Pauline? It’s almost beyong belief that not only does this sort of thing still go on but that this man (and his contempories) actually believe that they “own” their wives and family and can do to them what they like.


  4. Iv read this book and found it heart wrenching at the way she was treated and so glad for her and her girls that she escaped. I know of a young girl who is about to marry an egyptian man and whos parents are all for it and i wish they could read this book xx


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