“How to Be a Kosovan Bride” by Naomi Hamill – a story about changes in culture and tradition provoked by war

How to Be a Kosovan Bride by Naomi Hamill is set in the titular country after the war and leading up to the modern time. It has an unusual way of presenting the story in that it uses very short chapters and mixes up the main narrative with the stories of other people and local folk tales. What the author is trying to say is that this is a country which has been very set in its ways, often to the detriment of women, but which has had to change after the political and social upheaval of recent years.

The main story features two young women who are not given names at the beginning of the book because they stand for traditional roles and what is expected of them has nothing to do with them personally but reflects the way that things have always been done. One of these women is the Traditional Bride and the other is the Returned Girl. The first woman lives the life she is expected to until she grows tired of it and the second is rejected by her new husband and gets to go to university and have a job – at one point in the book the two meet and are jealous of each other’s lives which is a lovely moment.

The author tells tales of ordinary people mixed up in the fighting and what happened to them and their families. The folk tales she includes all illuminate the culture and the way of thinking.

Because the book is told in short chapters it is easy to read and you progress quickly through it but it throws up a lot of interesting points about roles, traditions and expectations and the price that has to be paid for change. Some of it isn’t very easy to read and it all provokes much thought. It is cleverly and beautifully written and gives an insight into problems faced by a society torn apart by war and what that might mean for individuals.