Kaoru Mori is best known for her work, Emma, an exquisite romance/slice-of-life set in Victorian England. Her latest work to be released in the United States, A Bride’s Story, is also a historical/slice-of-life but is vastly different than Emma. Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the early 19th century, A Bride’s Story revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy 8 years her junior. Volume 7 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road continues as Mr. Smith extends his journey. This time, he is welcomed into the home of a wealthy tradesman and his wife, Anis. Custom dictates that, as a woman, Anis is not permitted to meet their visitor face-to-face, but even so, she counts herself blessed to live in such a beautiful estate and be married to a man who devotes himself solely to her. Still, one cannot help but long for the companionship of another person when one’s closest friend is a reluctant Persian cat. In her loneliness, Anis visits the public bath house and discovers a place where she feels immediately free among her fellow sisters.
After the fighting, backstabbing, and chaos of Volume 6, Mori-sensei switches gears. We rejoin Mr. Smith as he enters a new town, where he becomes the guest of a wealthy tradesman. Unlike the previous village where he was constantly interacting with the twins and the other females in the community, the women in this area wear burkas and don’t show their faces to men outside their family. As such, Mr. Smith never actually gets to meet Anis, his host’s wife, who is the focus of this volume.
Anis is a stark contrast to those we’ve met so far. Her movements are limited, but hers is a carefree, privileged existence. She lives in an idyllic estate, loves her adoring husband, and has a healthy baby son. In her world, she’s the woman who has it all. Yet she’s extremely isolated (her main companion is a cat that looks an awful lot like the grumpy cat). Thus, we have a story about a woman seeking female friendship.
Mori-sensei uses Anis’ search to explore two lesser known aspects of Persian culture. The first is the public baths. Although the women in Anis’ community have to cover themselves completely outside their homes, they are not depicted as repressed or abused. Rather, their customs are inconvenient, but they have ways of dealing with it, one of which is the women’s bath. It’s not just a place to get clean. It’s where they relax, socialize, and enjoy themselves. When Smith first passes by the building, he thinks there’s a festival because of the merry racket within. While children and elderly are also patrons, most illustrations of the naked clientele have a sensual quality.
The second aspect is the khwahar khwandagi, the avowed sisters. As described in the manga, it’s a special covenant that binds two married women in a relationship similar to husband and wife. Anis’ encounter with Sherine in the public bath and the course she takes after the two become avowed sisters is somewhat simplistic. However, Anis is a rather simple character, thus the story’s “happily ever after” outcome suits her.
Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword and a foldout color illustration of the women’s bath. Also, Mori-sensei’s depictions of Anis’ estate are especially gorgeous.
From Amir’s active, noisy world, we enter the life of a woman who knows only peace and seclusion. The tradesman’s wife Anis doesn’t have to worry about finances or tribal warfare; she just wants to find a friend. While the customs in Anis’ region are completely foreign to westerners, she is a sweet, likable character, and readers will easily relate to her desire for a peer who understands her.
First published at the Fandom Post.