Consequences of flawed love

Title: The End of Innocence

Title: The End of Innocence

Author: Moni Mohsin

Publisher: Penguin Books

Reviewer: Namhla Tshisela

Nine-year-old Laila prides herself on being 16-year-old Rani's confidante. With her older sister away at school and with a war impending, Rani is Laila's only friend.

This is despite the disapproval of Sardar Begum, Laila's snobbish grandmother, who frowns on her granddaughter's interaction with servants.

Rani, lonely at being left in the care of her grandmother after her mother remarried, yearns for a life away from Sabzbagh in western Pakistan.

She finds a sweet but short-lived escape in the affection of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Though she knows little about him, she is flattered by his advances because in many ways he represents a way out of her stifling life. His family is not as poor as hers, he dresses well and has aspirations to fight in the war like the other men in his family.

Their forbidden relationship, and her dreams, come to an abrupt end when she falls pregnant.

Living with a strict Christian grandmother in a predominantly Muslim community, her situation is frowned upon.

She sees marriage as the only way out of the shame but she is bitterly disappointed when her lover does not honour his promise to make an honest woman of her.

Laila is the only one in on Rani's secret and it draws her into a situation she cannot fully comprehend or control. She also unwittingly leads Rani into more trouble with disastrous consequences as her innocence is abused by someone with a score to settle. Mohsin puts under scrutiny the complexity of a small, close-knit but divided community in an absorbing but sentimental book.