The major theme for this novel is East vs. West and how one English woman finds herself torn between two cultures: Victorian England and India. In the first book, Mariana (the English woman) accidentially-kind-of marries Hassan, an Indian man, because there's several prophecies about her watching over Hassan's son. (Hassan is a widower.) There's almost a lot about the civil unrest in India and plots about who is going to be the next ruler.
Anyway, Mariana just leaves Hassan and they don't have a marriage (as they never consumated it). Fast forward TWO YEARS for book two and oh, it's time for their first interaction. Did I mention that Mariana has had Hassan's son with her the entire time? Bad daddy, indeed.Mariana waffles over whether she wants a divorce or not, blah blah blah. She ends up sleeping with Hassan and spending some time with his family--but then again, at the end of the book, she leaves for freakin' Afghanastan. (I don't even remember whether Hassan's son is with her or not.) Evidently in book three, after more civil unrest and trouble, they hook up again. Or something.
The main issue I had is this: a true English woman--especially one like Mariana, who frequently breaks proper etiquette and basic social rules for a lady of her era--would never be content in an Indian home. The ladies of the home--at least in this book--were sequestered in the upstairs. They only interacted with other ladies and their husbands. It reminded me a lot of Muslim women today.
There is no way that Mariana would ever settle into that type of life. In the book, she can't even handle a few days in the room and escapes to do various things. Yet, through out the book, we are expected to believe she should be with Hassan and would be happy in that life. Hassan expects her to act like a normal Indian woman, too--he never bends his ideals--and gets angry when she doesn't. I just can't believe they would be happy together.
I don't I'm going to read book three. If I see it at my local Borders, I'll read the ending but I don't want to waste my energy on something I can't swallow.
On a positive note, Ali really captures Indian life well! She certainly has done her research.