Book Review – States of Passion

States of Passion
By Nihad Sirees
Pushkin Press
Rating: ***

A hapless Aleppo bureaucrat is stranded in the middle of the deserted countryside as a violent storm sets in. When he seeks refuge in an isolated old mansion, inhabited by an aged gentleman and his sinister servant, he begins to uncover a captivating tale of family secrets, lost passions, and shady dealings.

He is transported by these stories to Aleppo’s golden age – a time of art, music, wealth and laughter – and the all-female society of the banat al-ishreh, a society of women who live, love, and perform song and dance together. And as he gradually realises how these entanglements of love and passion, cruelty and resentment, stretch across the generations, he discovers that his own life is also in danger.


I’m not going to lie, it did take me a while to get into this novel. There are two parts of the story. The first part is a man who has broken down and got lost in the countryside, he takes shelter from the storm inside an old mansion which is inhabited by a very old man and his servant. The old man wants to tell his visitor a story, a story of the past that he has told no one before. However the servant, Ismail is not pleased about this and he will do anything to stop the whole story being told. This part of the novel, I really loved! It was creepy and strange, and I just felt like I had to know why the servant was so desperate for this story to stay a secret. Was it about him? Was he involved some how? I really felt the need to read on to find out why he wanted the old man to stay quiet.

The second part of the novel was the old man’s story itself. This is the bit that I felt difficult to get into to. Although half way through the book I got more into this part of the story so enjoyed the book a lot more. The old man’s story was about women in Aleppo in the golden age. It was about a society of women who performed and danced, but there were a lot of secrets to this society a lot of… passion, and love between the women and a lot of these women hated men. His story was a few different stories all put together, they felt disjointed at first but in the end everything does come together.

I have never read anything like this novel before, it felt very unique and I did enjoy reading about the society and women of Aleppo as this is not something I know a lot about. I did prefer the present tense of the novel, where the servant kept interfering with the old man’s story, this made me laugh, it was full of tension and mystery.

Although this took me a while to get into I am glad I persisted and did enjoy the book as a whole by the end. It was something very different for me to read, I read this book as it was in my last Reading in Heels subscription box. This is why I love this subscription because it always contains novels that I would never of picked up or have never heard of before.

States of Passion is a beautifully written story, well two stories in fact. If you like passion, romance, mystery, secrets and danger then this book will be a great read for you. 
Have you read States of Passion, what were your thoughts? Katie x

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