Book Review of Rafina by Shandana Minhas


Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I’m up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother’s friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice.

Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’. Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.

My review:

Shandana Minhas is an award winning Pakistani author for her previous works and reading the praise for the author and the summary of the book, I was really excited to read this book since it sounded quite different.

But believe me, the summary has the whole plot. There is nothing much to it. It is quite predictable and ordinary.

Given the plot isn’t extraordinary, I figured maybe it will have some character development that will ensnare the reader and make the reader like it forever. But no, it was a disappointment.

The book has a total of 160 pages or so and 150 pages of it were pure nonsensical. It had false information, misrepresentation of sexual orientations and sexualities, degradation of women, body shaming and pure ignorance.

I will quote something from the book and you can tell me if I am right or wrong.

Here, Rafina is talking about her aunt –

Rafina was hurt, but she swallowed her feelings and did what she had to do. When she was dressed…..she hoped she didn’t look like Rosie. The plumpness of Rosie’s body, so easily erased by a shalwar kameez, was magnified by the more form-fitting pants so that she looked like a gol gappa with legs.

I actually said “wow” when I read this line.

Rafina sounded to me self obsessed, self centered and arrogant. And there was no development to her character. She just stayed a douche bag throughout the book.

Now, here is another line that had me frustrated-

Rafina had been to an all-girl’s school and felt she knew all about lesbians but she wasn’t quite sure what a gay man was. Sure there were hijras, and men walked down the streets holding hands, but the first, all the adults she had heard speak of it agreed, were simply men dressed in women’s clothes for money…


Even if I ignore this thinking that the girl doesn’t know any better, the author must have known better than this to write about only what she knew for certain. This is a book. A writer is an influencer. You are actually capable of putting thoughts into someone’s head. I would only ask people to write after tons of research, reading books and talking to people who might know about the things you have a misconception about.

I didn’t understand if she meant that those who study in an all-girl’s school are lesbians or vice versa or do lesbians generally do things in a school to let others know what lesbianism is?

And what is it about calling transgender people hijras and wtf….men dressed as women for money?

It is actually outrageous.

Sexual orientation is not a choice.

There are many instances in the book where she degrades other women for being white or pale as she calls it and says how everyone wants to be like her and are below her. And there are lines in the book that actually say infuriating stuffs.

To top it all, the ending was terrible. It was just not my type of book.

Educate yourself before writing a book and bringing it to the masses.

I rate it 1 🌟.

Thank you, Panmacmillan India for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Important : Look at me rant about this book on my YouTube channel here.

9 thoughts on “Book Review of Rafina by Shandana Minhas

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