‘A nicely written, if somewhat unoriginal tale of post-breakup angst’ – Creating Rachel by Mustafa Alrawi

Creating Rachel charts the emotional journey of Mohammed during a night of post-breakup reminiscence. He’s on a journal-reading binge, reliving his year long relationship with Rachel, a young, party-loving fellow-Londoner.

Mohammed’s self-introduction gives a hint of his tendencies toward self-obsession:

“Still, I must confess I have movie star looks…it’s worth noting, though, the person doing the comparisons has been, in the main, limited to me.  Whenever I have mentioned to others my ‘uncanny’ resemblance to one of the above, the response has always been of vague amusement.”

By his own admission he is a bad Muslim:

“Drinking, drug-taking, digging the swine, pre-marital sex – I did all of these things and more.”

It would be tempting to describe Rachel as a twenty-something Jew, as the cover does, but the fact that she’s Jewish really isn’t relevant to the story, and indeed gets only a casual mention. Likewise the ‘post 9-11 world’ which Mohammed allegedly inhabits. I imagine the marketing meeting went something like this: “well, he’s an Arab so we’d better put in a reference to 9-11. Oh, and a Muslim dating a Jew, that’s pretty unlikely isn’t it? That should get their attention”

The reality of the book is somewhat different. There is a single reference to the ‘post 9-11 world’ (“What was the alternative to my hypocritical lifestyle? Blow myself up on the underground? I don’t think so”). And the Muslim-meets Jew aspect is utterly inconsequential. The biggest obstacle to their relationship is inability to commit rather than inability to reconcile conflicting beliefs.

So then, the bulk of Creating Rachel is made up of the kind of sentimental reminiscences which tend to happen following a failed relationship. Sometimes it strikes a chord, at other times it seems tired and melodramatic. Some of the best writing is to be found towards the end of the night (and the book) as Mohammed starts to come to terms with the fact that the relationship has run its course.

“I know that one day you will seek to be the Rachel that I love because your soul will demand it. And you will get your fix of her for the brief moments that I stop to say hello on the road that is our lives. But it will always be too fleeting, too elusive, and you will wonder what happened, where she went and where she lives”

Any Cop?: Stylish, sleek and beautiful – and that’s just the cover. A nicely written, if somewhat unoriginal tale of post-breakup angst. Just don’t expect any profound insights into the dating habits of post 9-11 British Muslims.

Lucy Chatburn

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