What would you do if the secret police demanded you spy on a friend in order to protect your family? Three women confront the complexities of trust, friendship and motherhood under the rule of a dictator in this debut inspired by the author's own experiences in Iraq
At night, in Huda's fragrant garden, a breeze sweeps in from the desert encircling Baghdad, rustling the leaves of her apricot trees and carrying warning of visitors at her gate. Huda, a secretary at the Australian embassy, lives in fear of the secret police, who have ordered her to befriend Ally, the deputy ambassador's wife. Huda's former friend Rania, an artist, enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the daughter of a sheikh. Now her family's wealth is gone, and Rania is battling to keep her child safe and a roof over their heads.
As the women's lives intersect, their hidden pasts spill into the present. Facing possible betrayal at every turn, all three must trust in a fragile, newfound loyalty, even as they discover how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect their families.
Transporting readers to one of the world's most legendary cities, with mouth-watering cuisine, incredible history, a surprising art scene and bustling book markets, Gina Wilkinson's suspenseful debut is told through the eyes of three very different women confronting the limits of friendship and forgiveness, and the strength of a mother's love.
While When the Apricots Bloom is a work of fiction, it is inspired by Gina's real-life experiences living in Baghdad under the Saddam Hussein regime and later during the Iraq war. Gina was 31 when she arrived in Baghdad, and like the character Ally in her book, she suddenly went from being a journalist and professional in her own right to 'a dependent spouse', the unflattering visa category for the partners of diplomats and UN workers. And as in the novel, Gina developed a close relationship with a woman"an informant secretly reporting back to the regime on where she went, what she saw, and who she spoke with. Once the regime fell, the truth came out. Gina didn't blame the woman who so often called herself her Iraqi sister. She understood that 'no' was not an option with the mukhabarat – especially for someone like her friend, who had a family to protect, and lived through her brothers being executed by the regime several years earlier.
More than ten years later, Gina was still dwelling on all that happened in Iraq and she couldn't stop wondering, had it been just a job for her Iraqi sister? Were they simply informant and target? Or had they been friends too? Sometimes real life is just as complex as fiction, motivations blurred, lines crossed, and redrawn, so Gina started work on When the Apricots Bloom, exploring questions of truth, loyalty, and friendship that she had left unanswered in Baghdad in the hopes of showing Iraqi women as Gina found them to be – smart, resilient, warm and loving.
Gina Wilkinson is an award-winning former journalist, foreign correspondent and documentary-maker who's reported from some of the world's most intriguing and perilous places for the BBC and ABC, and other renowned public broadcasters. During two decades living and working in hotspots across the globe, she spent more than a year in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. Gina now works in international development, supporting efforts to end poverty in the developing world. She lives in Melbourne. When the Apricots Bloom is her first novel.
What readers are saying about When the Apricots Bloom:
'I felt the warmth of the sun and tasted the sweetness of the lime tea. The intricately woven relationships & expert pacing had me at the edge of my seat'
'Mesmerizing. It was a book I couldn't put down, and it has stayed with me'
'I read this novel with my heart in my throat. Wilkinson's atmospheric and suspenseful novel explores complicated relationships, risks, lies, and betrayals'
When the Apricots Bloom
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