MASKS BY NATALY RESTOKIAN
BOOK REVIEW by LYN HANCOCK

“I wrote this book to let women in the other parts of the world realize that there is no perfection, no complete happiness, that dreams can sometimes turn into nightmares, and that not everything that glitters is gold.”
Author Nataly Restokian, a Lebanon-born woman of Armenian heritage, calls her debut novel MASKS because many women living in the Arab world of the Middle East, disguise their real feelings, their real aspirations, and give in to the social, religious, traditional and sexual taboos of their family and community.
The protagonist Anna is a composite character derived from actual people that really existed including Nataly herself. From an early age she is determined to lead her own life, to seek fame and fortune. She becomes a journalist, an actress, a television host with her own show. She enjoys fame, power, money. She is a celebrity in the Arab world far beyond Lebanon. But true happiness eludes.

She hides the truth behind her mask. As a teenager she is raped. No-one must know, her virginity must remain intact. As an adult she is married to a man who steals her money, her jewellery, and sleeps with prostitutes. This must be kept secret to protect her public image.

She is courted by a prince of the royal family, she enjoys in disguise the pleasures of wealth, sex and international travel, she wants to marry him but she refuses to become just another wife in his harem.

She wants to marry the father figure in her life. She does not need his money, she needs his comfort and support. But again, the relationship must stay hidden. He will not sacrifice his family, his reputation, his position in society.
The author comments that “The world should know what goes on behind closed curtains in the Arab celebrity world, what happens to women whose souls are doomed but who eventually get used to a wealthy lifestyle, fancy houses, expensive cars and top fashion clothes. Women are abused as they are in Hollywood but no-one comes forward to speak up because as women, we will even be blamed for seducing our seducer rather than being protected.” After the recent airing of the Harvey Weinstein case and others like it, it seems that masks are already being dropped as more victims tell their stories.
Nataly’s book begins in Los Angeles and ends in Quebec, Canada. Anna meets Joe on line and realizes from the beginning that he is the true love of her life.

Readers will discover for themselves how much of this novel is fiction and how much is fact. The ending is both expected and unexpected.

We all have masks to some degree. As an author, an Australian Canadian girl who, similar to Anna/Nataly, got engaged on her first date and married three weeks later, whose life and loves have been complicated by differences between private and public images, I share some of the author/protagonist’s experiences.
I ordered this book because I travel a lot in the Arab world, not in the fast lane as Nataly did, but in the slow side alleys and ancient stone compounds of rural villages. I live with women who cover their bodies with black burquas night and day, who spend much of their time squatting on the sand in front of primitive stoves and huge pans baking bread or washing clothes, who eat with their children then serve their husbands when he comes home at night .
The author dedicates her book to Nidal, the love of her life, her best friend, her soul mate, the man who inspired her to leave her glamorous life in Lebanon for a simple life in Canada. And it was in Canada that she realized how lucky women really are, even when she found they often don’t appreciate it. And it was Canada that triggered her idea to write this book with ideas for more.

Read this book. I read it three times.

(Lyn Hancock, author of There’s a Seal in my Sleeping Bag)