Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sold and A Promise to Nadia by Zana Muhsen and Andrew Crofts

I've actually written two reviews in one this time folks. I've never done this before and may never do it again, but this time I feel it is justified.

Book Blurb for Sold:
Zana Muhsen, born and bred in Birmingham, is of Yemeni origin. When her father told her she was to spend a holiday with relatives in North Yemen, she jumped at the chance. Aged 15 and 13 respectively, Zana and her sister discovered that they had been literally sold into marriage, and that on their arrival they were virtually prisoners. They had to adapt to a completely alien way of life, with no running water, dung-plastered walls, frequent beatings, and the ordeal of childbirth on bare floors with only old women in attendance.
After eight years of misery and humiliation Zana succeeded in escaping, but her sister is still there, and it seems likely that she will now never leave the country where she has spent more than half her life. This is an updated edition of Zana's account of her experiences

Book Blurb for A Promise to Nadia:
Ten years ago Zana Muhsen escaped from the life of slavery in the Yemen into which her father had sold her as a child bride, leaving behind her baby son, her sister Nadia, and Nadia's two small children. As she described so powerfully in her book Sold, Zana made a solemn vow to Nadia that she would do everything she possibly could obtain their freedom as well. This book tells the story of those ten years; of the family's lone campaign against the Yemeni authorities; of the refusal of their own government in London to help; and of the despair that forced them into a desperate deal with an unofficial military-style organization specializing in the recovery of abducted children

My (combined) review:
Sold is a story that needed to be told and needs to be read.  It is a tragic and horrifying problem that this type of thing could happen and still be happening. Every effort to get the word out about this should be made.

That said, however, for having used a ghostwriter this story is not very well told. It is a bit disjointed. It bounces around in time with no apparent rhyme or reason. And it could have been written in a much more powerful style. Although the acts mentioned in these books are truly horrifying, they aren't written in a way that really allows the reader to experience them - to feel true empathy for Zana and Nadia.

A Promise to Nadia is primarily a repeat of Sold. Much of the book covers the same detail. There is very little new information here, other than the scam that the Muhsen family fell prey to.

***SPOILER ALERT***In doing some web searching it appears that Nadia and her children did return to England in 2003, however she is still living with Mohammed and is still controlled by him and her father. She has not found the freedom the world hoped for for her.

If the money earned from these two books helped in securing the release of Nadia and her children from Yemen then buy them. That small price would be worth it. But as far as literary appeal go, I'm rating these at 3 and 2 stars respectively.

About the author(s):
Zana Muhsen (born 1965) is a British author who has written about the experiences that she and her sister, Nadia (born 1966), went through when they were sent from their birthplace in Birmingham, England to Yemen in 1980 on a purported holiday to meet the paternal side of their family, but sold unaware into marriage in by their father, Muthanna Muhsen, a Yemeni émigré.

Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter. You can learn more about him on his website.  


  1. Thank you so much for devoting this much space on your blog to Zana's story. I have to agree with you that "Promise to Nadia" is rather a re-telling of the same story. It was commissioned by the publishers because of the enormous demand from readers of "Sold" to find out more about what happened to the girls after the end of the book. So many people have been so kind in their comments about this story over the years and we have sold well over five million copies now. So, thank you again for adding your voice.

    1. I have just finished the book 'A promise to Nadia' Certainly very dissapointed not to read of Nadia's return to UK. Can you tell me if Nadia has in fact returned? There seems to be so many conflicting reports on line. Many thanks Dee

    2. Andrew- did Nadia ever return with her children to the U.K.? I cannot find any fact regarding it on the internet.

  2. Thank YOU Andrew for taking the time to read my review of these two books. As you were the Ghost Writer for them it means a lot to me that you would not only do so, but comment as well. And thank you for helping Nadia's and Zana's stories get told.

  3. Hello,
    I am doing a linguistic research and I am using Sold as my Corpus as it is one of the best books that I have ever read.
    In Fact, for my analysis, I need to know how many words are in the book?

    Thank you so much for your help.

    1. I didn't do a word count on it and I read it as a hard copy so a word count was not included. I'd suggest you might want to check Amazon - they usually show word counts. Good luck with your research.

    2. Thank you for your answer :)))))

  4. Please can you let me know where you found the information that Nadia is in England? Thanks.

  5. Can anyone tell us what has happened to Nadia?
    Is she still in the Yemen (2014)?
    Support your response with evidence, please, not just rumours...
    What about Zana? Is she still fighting for her sister?
    Thank you in advance.

  6. I read Sold about 15 years ago as a teenager and was shocked by it. The story had always remained on my mind but now with the internet making research easier I have come across documentaries and interviews that took place with Nadia in which she claims her sister wasn't very truthful in the stories. Just read this interview with Nadia and see

    She loves her husband and didn't come back because she was happy there... if she came back with her husband could it be that he wasn't the monster he was made out to be? Is it so hard to believe he might actually be a good husband and they love each other?

    1. Thanks for your comment Helena. I am in no position to determine whether or not Nadia was happy in her marriage or if she truly wanted to return to England. While I realize arranged marriage is common in some cultures, I do believe both parties should consent and no one should be forced. A woman is not an asset, she is a person with her own mind and heart and should be able to decide her own future.

    2. The question asked has not been answered- is Nadia back in the U.K. - as of 2017?