Name of the book: Ishtah :The Prostitute’s Daughter
Name of the author: Ella Hansing
Published by : www.lulu.com
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
About this book: The ceremony of the god Ashur is in just a few days. Outside the city begins to celebrate, but the doors and windows of my mother’s house remain tightly shut. Our food has begun to grow scarce, yet she has made no motion to work. She has not called me to bring her her perfume, to braid her long, tangled hair, or paint her lips red. I close my eyes tight as I try and find what might save us, but the silence yields my young mind nothing. There would be no point in praying to the gods. I couldn't imagine them listening to either of us, and doubted they ever had. [Courtesy: Goodreads]
I did a double take when I read this story. If, after reading this title you all are expecting something sexy, lurid or dirty then please don’t read further but if you are an emotional, sensitive and creative reader then do go on. Captivating from the first sentence, this short story [too short and left me wanting for more] showed me a place called Assyria in 603 B.C. This is the story of Ishtah, the daughter of one of the most famous prostitutes of Assyria. But unlike her mother she hated that lifestyle . More of a carer of the family she could not understand why her mother gave birth to her when she was so incapable of tending to the needs of her daughter.
It was Ishtah who would do all the household work and hide/sleep on the rooftop when her mother was visited by her client. Fighting hunger and social ridicule both from the other prostitutes as well as the decent people of Assyria, Ishtah would fantasize about going somewhere where people would not recognize her. But the end of the day she would always succumb to her mother’s need. Plaiting her mom’s hair, fetching water for her and cleaning the house was everyday chores for her while her mom would either sleep or put paint on her face waiting for the clients.
Most of the time hunger gnawed at her stomach and there were days they had a feast left by some of the patrons of her mother but in all these dark moments of her little life she had motherly love from Hesthba, who not only showered her with love but also during the tough times, caused by the drought, gave her tiny morsels of food. She was the one who would take Ishtah to the central temple of Arrapha and see to her overall wellbeing, in spite of having her own daughter of Ishtah’s age.
Along with Hesthba the only other ray of hope was her son Aeros, son of Hesthba, who loved her. Would Ishtah be able to love him back or would her mother’s bad reputation take her to the same path of heartbreak and shame?
What I liked...
The first thing I liked about this story is the picturesque words used to describe the place, Assyria.
‘The pool seemed misplaced, lying there in the sun-baked earth like a large, unblinking eye, staring up undaunted at the sky’.
The ending of the story left me stunned. Of all the scenes imaginable, I had not expected that. [That’s all for spoilers you guys will get from me!!!]
What I didn’t like...
The need to know more about what happened. I really wish I could see where Ishtah went after that. The author, Ella Hansing, has created such an atmosphere that upon completion, I almost felt cheated. How dare it end so soon? This short story has all the ingredients of turning into a full fledged novel. [Ella, did you get the hint? :)]
This has been rated as a short story]
First and foremost, the disappointment of it being a short novel. I needed to know what happens next as a reader.
Ella Hansing has played with words beautifully in this short story. But I would have had the characters ‘showing’ the readers more with their dialogues rather than the author’s descriptive words. [Though the words are penned beautifully, but it lessened the scope of dialogues.]
Would I recommend this book to my readers:
Definitely. This book is for those rainy afternoons when you sit by the window with a cup of tea. Emotional, poetic and touching.
Author Ella Hansing's thoughts....
What inspired you to write your first book?
- I am very visual, so when I see something (often art, or even a passing person) that speaks to me, I want to create the backdrop or a story behind it - I want to expand on it. My writing always stems from initially a very small interest.
How did you come up with the title?
- Titles are dreadful to come up with. I've begun simply calling things what they are to avoid any headache. Luckily, my protagonist's name is very pretty I think, so it worked out well as a title this time.
What books have most influenced your life most?
- My favorite book of all time is a children's book: The Princess and the Goblins by George MacDonald.
I have a very old copy with many delightful illustrations. His piece, though written for children, really captures the awe and wonder associated with the age group he writes for. I loved it.
What are your current projects?
- I am currently promoting my novella, Ishtah. Later on I hope to begin work on a full length novel for young adults.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
- I have loved telling stories since before I could write. When I was a child I would illustrate my stories and staple the pages together. Later on my love of storytelling taught me how to type (which I initially struggled with). Home computers and Word programs were still newly introduced when I was in elementary school. After I discovered Word on my parent's computer, my storytelling really took off.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
- Writing down some of the middle parts. You need to write down a series of events to get to where you really want to take the reader. It's necessary to include certain details, but sometimes I get impatient to write the really fun, or interesting scenes.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
- Write because you like to do it. Writing can be a very solitary hobby, so make sure and give yourself plenty of pats on the back along the way, especially every time you complete something great.
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