While reading British-Pakistani journalist Reham Khan’s memoir, rather grandiosely titled Reham Khan, it’s easy to pity and even empathize with the younger Reham—the woman married at 19 to an older cousin, who gradually turned from a cold, unfeeling man into (from her description) a monster.

Naturally, this part of her story has not found much currency. It’s easy to imagine readers skimming through the pages frantically to get to the part where she describes her relationship with her much more famous second husband, and now prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and his absurdly long list of idiosyncrasies: drugs, clandestine affairs, illegitimate (Indian) children, secret homosexuality, an obsession with pirs, ignorance of the Quran, and an apparent fondness for rubbing kaali daal over his naked body at the behest of one of his spiritual advisors.

But it’s the early chapters that are actually readable. For in these pages, Reham’s descriptions of her first marriage both mirror every stereotype of an abusive, toxic relationship and ring chillingly true. She comes across as a real person, honestly telling her own story. Her love for her children shines through. Her determination to become financially independent comes across as a lived experience. And her struggle to be accepted as a serious journalist is evident.

As she approaches the part of the narrative detailing her first few meetings with Imran, his awkward wooing and her apparent indifference, and the laboured cricketing metaphors she uses to describe her final capitulation in agreeing to marry him, the real woman recedes into the background. She is replaced by a very angry person who perhaps has every reason to be angry, but whose lack of emotional soul-searching and self-awareness make it difficult for the reader to empathize with her. Soon the narrative is filled with breathless rant after rant—perhaps fuelled by the innate corruption of the privileged men and women around her and a palpable desire to burn everything to the ground. In all this, Reham remains a grim-faced Mary Sue character who does nothing wrong and never displays a moment of humour or compassion.

This is the book’s biggest failing. While it is likely that few will read the memoir for anything other than scandal, Reham could have used the book as an opportunity to offer genuine insights into Pakistani society and politics. Or, indeed, into the mind of the real Reham Khan.

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