Title: Our Own Private Fig Tree
Author: Rania Battany
Published: October 14th 2021
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
1988: In a multicultural pocket of inner-city Melbourne, sixteen-year-old Caleb falls in love with Samira, his Lebanese neighbour. Both understand the rules that determine they’re not allowed to date, but neither stays away. As they hide in the branches of a giant fig tree, their forbidden love blossoms … until tragedy pulls them apart.
1998: A chance encounter has reunited Caleb and Samira. Now that she’s no longer the sixteen-year-old girl he fell in love with but a beautiful grown woman, Caleb is certain they’ll have a second chance. But cultural rules don’t go away simply because they’re adults. Instead, they’re left facing the same battle they did as teens. Except this time, Caleb realises the threads of culture and heritage are weaved much deeper into his own life than he could’ve imagined.
He has a choice. To fight for the woman he loves, or to do what everyone before him has done. Follow the rules.
‘If only we could have our own private fig tree everywhere we went.’
Rania Battany is an Australian contemporary romance author who loves to pen stories filled with raw emotion and troubled characters. Our Own Private Fig Tree is a tale that combines a modern romance story with issues of multiculturalism. Stirring, touching, heartbreaking and sincere, Our Own Private Fig Tree is a poignant read that I rate highly.
Crossing the timeframes of 1988 and 1998 in Australia, Our Own Private Fig Tree considers the cost of a romance challenged by culture, heritage and societal norms. In the year 1988, we meet sixteen-year-old Caleb, a boy on the cusp of adulthood, who falls deeply in love with a local girl named Samira. This star-crossed love story immediately runs into trouble when Samira’s culture interferes with her new romance. Samira is denied the chance to date Caleb and despite the restrictions placed on this couple, they continue to see one another secretly. As Caleb and Samira grow closer, a tragedy forces them apart, breaking two young hearts in the process. Moving forward in time to ten years later, Caleb and Samira reconnect after a decade apart. Caleb is hopeful that Samira will return to him and jump back into a relationship. However, this couple continue to face the same cultural issues and family opposition problems that forced them apart as teenagers. But a family secret comes to the surface that changes Caleb’s outlook on his life. Can Caleb and Samira break free from the rules that define their existence?
I was first introduced to the writing of Rania Battany two years ago, after I was gifted a copy of Battany’s 2019 contemporary romance novel, Fleeting Moments. I described this novel as having a strong emotional focus and that it raised some thought-provoking ideas in regards to love. Based on my past experience with Battany’s writing, I was happy to delve into Our Own Private Fig Tree.
I got the feeling from the onset that this story is inspired by Battany’s own past experiences and family history. As a result, the tale that emerges is one of heart, passion and honesty. There is a strong sense of authenticity to the experiences outlined in the novel, the characters themselves and their responses to the issues at stake in the story. Drawn heavily from personal experience, Our Own Private Fig Tree makes for a compelling and engaging read. Our Own Private Fig Tree contains plenty of emotional moments, lots of drama, some heartbreaking choices and a number of difficult decisions. I felt like I had stepped back in time to both 1988 and 1998 thanks to Battany’s affective prose. A strong sense of nostalgia washed over me, reminding me of my past experiences during these years! Battany captures the angst and deep feelings of her characters, which makes Our Own Private Fig Tree a very involving contemporary romance tale.
Our Own Private Fig Tree works hard to critically interrogate issues of culture, heritage, family values, expectations and rules in regards to young people from other cultures. Samira’s experiences as a young Lebanese girl and a woman later down the track is portrayed well by the author. I got a very good glimpse into the life experiences, challenges, setbacks and sense of family from Samira’s side of the story. In Caleb, we are presented with a quintessential Australian boy and young man, who is struggling to understand the rules imposed on his emotions. Caleb is faced with quite a challenge to his mode of thinking and his family construct ideas as the novel progressed. I really appreciated Battany’s treatment of this area of her novel. Above all else, I feel that this story represents a powerful ode to living in a multicultural area of inner-city Melbourne. Our Own Private Fig Tree has a lot to say in regards to the complex nature of culture and heritage when love intervenes!
All in all, Our Own Private Fig Tree was a thoughtful, diverse and unique romance tale that I enjoyed very much.
Our Own Private Fig Tree by Rania Battany was published on 14th October 2021. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Our Own Private Fig Tree, Rania Battany, visit here.
*I wish to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Our Own Private Fig Tree is book #93 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge