The Poison Tree, planted and grown in Egypt.

Poison Tree

Poison Tree

I just finished this book by Marwa Rakha called The Poison Tree – planted and grown in Egypt and still can’t decide on what I think of it.  The first few pages were tedious, boring and felt like I was reading a teenage girl’s hidden diary; full of anger, frustration and hate towards her mother, men and society.  I stuck through and it is as if you can feel the teenage girl grow and mature as you go along.  Still every few pages you find her again, voicing her anger and feeding her frustration.

Marwa Rakha was the relationships expert on OTV and I always felt her ideas were balanced, fair and quite mature, perhaps that was why I felt the book was not what I expected.

I did enjoy reading it once I got past the first quarter.  Although I don’t agree with the over generalization that men are bad, life is unfair and women get the short end of the stick all the time; I do agree that our society needs lots of change. I do agree with her ideas on not settling and doing our best by choosing happiness.

I am not pleading for drastic measure like divorce, imigration, the great escape or 180 degree career changes; I am defending our human right to choose.  Our lives do not have to come to a standstill if we are in the wrong job with the wrong boss or in the wrong house with the wrong partner.  We do not have to settle!  We do not need to settle!  We should not settle!

Jerks Until Proven otherwise

Jerks Until Proven otherwise

She also talks about dating, online dating, divorce, marriage and prostitution among many other things.  I’ve always hated the over generalization that men suck.  I’ve always disliked negative generalizations in general.  I don’t believe all men are out there to cheat, double cross, abuse and be in control of women.  Yes, there is a number of those out there, but as usual those are the ones that are the most talked about.  Do your friends usually come and say “My guy is wonderful”?  No, you usually just hear the “he is trying to control me” or “he won’t take me out” or “he doesn’t do whatever”.  As a society is it because “ben5af men el 7asad”, we always want people to only know the bad things to protect ourselves from “the evil eye”? Or is it because we are not used to changing things we do not like.  I don’t think Egyptians like change.  We like things to stay the way they are, the way they have always been, even if that means we are not happy.  In the current crazy economy why are we still so insistent on holding on to things like expensive weddings, large apartments and unnecessary furnishing?  I sometimes think that the main problem with marriage is that men are unable to financially make a marriage work.  But this does not explain why many marriages fail even though they do not have financial problems.  I am sure that like every problem it is caused by the two people involved.  Even if one person is the main reason, then the other partner was passive,  definitely it takes two to tango.  When a woman complains that all the men that she has met in her life are losers, I am compelled to think maybe she is looking in the wrong place.  People who call themselves “loser magnets” are usually just making the same mistakes over and over.  I am not trying to judgmental but we can all fall into that trap of attracting “losers”, the losers could be men, friends, financial decisions, careers, or whatever.  Accountability is very important, and we all need to understand that before we move forward we need to know who has ownership of what and who will be accountable for what.  I think i went off on a tangent there.

The thing I disliked the most was the book’s cover, it looked childish and I didn’t get it , what’s a huge chocolate bar doing on top of the female symbol?  Women are chocolate?  Compared to the illustrations which are inside the book it is just rubbish,  the illustrations inside were fantastic, funny and quite artistic, so I don’t really understand why they didn’t have the same style on the cover?

Overall, the book is interesting and is worth the time if at least for starting conversations in your head.  Even though I didn’t agree with the general gist of the book I have to say the author put lots of effort and emotions into it.


  • At 2008.10.26 00:12, Organica said:

    Thanks for the review! Great ideas.

    • At 2008.10.26 10:48, jessyz said:

      @Organica : You are welcome :-)

      • At 2008.10.26 14:30, mona said:

        I always like your book reviews. I had to Google her, I’ve seen her on Otv.

        • At 2008.10.27 10:56, inas said:

          i like your reviews simple and interresting

          • At 2008.10.27 13:00, RJay said:

            i think egyptian authors who write in english are being misrepresented by the bad quality of the paper and the paperback books that they’re made of probably to keep the cost low enough to encourage people to buy

            • At 2008.10.27 14:00, jessyz said:

              @mona: I am blushing
              @inas: I take it from you
              @Rjay: the book is pricey 60 LE, the average Arabic book goes from 10 to 40 ( and that’s for the really long Mahfouz novels) and their quality is great now. I don’t think that is the problem. I think it has more to do with the quality of the writing, although this author in particular had some interesting content but it just didn’t feel right.

              • At 2008.10.28 17:26, Deee said:

                I have to say I did not like the book one bit, i found it very very bitter.. for several reasons, of which the most important is: the reflex action for being wrongfully judged is not wrongfully judging an entire GENDER. Such generalization is foolish! I say, if you’re given the wits and the experience, which I believe Marwa has, she should use them wisely instead of criticizing people for criticizing her! It was a total waste of time hearing someone rant over a break-up.. and yes, the artwork was very very nice! :)

                • At 2008.10.28 21:21, jessyz said:

                  @Deee: I too hated the generalizations, the bitterness and the criticism. I did love the artwork. I read it as entertainment actually which is probably why it didn’t annoy me that much. I was expecting much more but the book didn’t deliver and I disliked how the book had a preachy tone and how she made you feel everyone was out to get her personally. The world doesn’t revolve around individuals. Overall though the effort was nice.

                  • At 2008.11.06 13:54, Marwa Rakha said:

                    Hello Jessy:)

                    A friend of mine came across your blog and emailed me the link to my book’s review. He was angry and thought your review/ comments were unfair; however, I thought you did a great job reading and reviewing the book.

                    As a writer, I get a variety of responses to my work; love you hug you, feel you, envy you, damn you, or just hate you. But your response shows effort in reading and analyzing the book and the artwork – I appreciate that.

                    The interesting thing about art – any form of art – is that it is like a mirror … it reflects the inside of you rather than the inside of the artist. Think of painters, poets, novelists, and composers … people interpret my book according to their personalities and characters .. they see a reflection of their own feelings …. this applies to all the feedback I get be it tears, laughter, strength, appreciation, boredom, resentment ..etc

                    The book is a compilation of my published articles from 2004 until December 2007 and a lot of the incidents were written in retrospect. Before I attempt to help anyone (OTV and the like) I needed to come to terms with my own issues and reconcile with the different lives that I have lived.

                    Feel free to post your review on

                    • At 2008.11.06 14:18, jessyz said:

                      @Marwa Rakha: I am glad you didn’t take the review the wrong way, at the end of the day everyone has their own way of interpreting literature. I probably expected so much more from you because I guess I’ve seen you on OTV a couple of times and heard you on Radio Horreyetna. I appreciated your honesty in the book. I always believe that we should be true to ourselves and this is the only way we can move forward. I also do believe that young women do need lots of guidance and counseling in things like marriage, divorce, falling in love etc. But this advice and insight needs to come from someone who is more or less ready to put aside personal prejudices aside to be able to analyze and help in all of these social issues. I also think that perhaps if you come out with another book it will be a very different one with a completely different voice. Again it is very commendable that you found the courage and the honesty to write your book, kudos to you.

                      • At 2008.11.06 15:48, Marwa Rakha said:

                        :) Stay in touch