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When the Apricots Bloom - by Gina Wilkinson (Paperback)

When the Apricots Bloom - by Gina Wilkinson (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
When the Apricots Bloom - by Gina Wilkinson (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
$8.89 sale price when purchased online
$16.99 list price

About this item


Book Synopsis

"Breathtaking...Riveting and profound! I adored this book!" --Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Collector

"A deeply involving and important novel by a master storyteller."--Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author


In this moving, suspenseful debut novel, three courageous women confront the complexities of trust, friendship, motherhood, and betrayal under the rule of a ruthless dictator and his brutal secret police. Former foreign correspondent Gina Wilkinson draws on her own experiences to take readers inside a haunting story of Iraq at the turn of the millennium and the impossible choices faced by families under a deadly regime.

A BuzzFeed Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Release
A Target Book Club Pick
A Publishers Marketplace Buzz Books Selection

At night, in Huda's fragrant garden, a breeze sweeps in from the desert encircling Baghdad, rustling the leaves of her apricot trees and carrying warning of visitors at her gate. Huda, a secretary at the Australian embassy, lives in fear of the mukhabarat--the secret police who watch and listen for any scrap of information that can be used against America and its allies. They have ordered her to befriend Ally Wilson, the deputy ambassador's wife. Huda has no wish to be an informant, but fears for her teenaged son, who may be forced to join a deadly militia. Nor does she know that Ally has dangerous secrets of her own.

Huda's former friend, Rania, enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the daughter of a sheikh. Now her family's wealth is gone, and Rania too is battling to keep her child safe and a roof over their heads. As the women's lives intersect, their hidden pasts spill into the present. Facing possible betrayal at every turn, all three must trust in a fragile, newfound loyalty, even as they discover how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect their families.

"Vivid...secrets and lies mingle as easily as the scent of apricot blossoms and nargilah smoke. Wilkinson weaves in the miasma of fear and distrust that characterized Hussein's regime with convincing detail. Richly drawn characters and high-stakes plot." --Publishers Weekly

Review Quotes

Praise for Gina Wilkinson and When The Apricots Bloom

"A deeply involving and important novel by a master storyteller. Gina Wilkinson highlights the humanity at the center of a brutal conflict. She brings her lived experience to every page of this harrowing, dramatic, and ultimately hopeful book."
--Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author

"Gina Wilkinson's breathtaking novel explores the plight of ordinary people who must flee their country to survive, as three women living under the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and his brutal secret police risk their lives to protect themselves and their children. Riveting and profound! I adored this book!"
--Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Collector

"Huda, Rania, and Ally provide a glimpse into the world of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Their lives are so different, and yet common bonds create a friendship that withstands the distrust and paranoia that pervades the dictator's rule. It is hard to imagine how hard life must have been, although Wilkinson does a marvelous job depicting the fear that all of these characters experienced. Her personal experience in Iraq during in the years prior to the Iraq war adds genuine depth to this story and the characters' lives. Reading this story gave me an appreciation for my life in a free country! It was riveting from beginning to end. I loved the characters and their strength and perseverance. A great read!"
--Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL)

"Wilkinson's atmospheric and suspenseful novel explores the complicated relationships between two Iraqi women and a diplomat's wife during Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It powerfully illustrates the peril women faced under his misogynistic, autocratic regime, and the risks, lies and betrayals they had to commit in order to protect their families. I read this novel with my heart in my throat."
--Lisa Johnson, Penguin Bookshop (Sewickley, PA)

"It is so easy to forget that there are families behind the headlines, and women desperately clinging to them, willing to risk everything to protect what they hold dear. The stories of these three women are each compelling on their own, but when intertwined they become formidable. The sights and smells of Iraq are so vivid, casting hope where there seems to be only despair. This stunning novel has such an authentic voice it is easy to forget that it is a novel rather than a memoir or history."
--Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library (Flemington, NJ)

"Reading this novel, I felt the warmth of the sun and tasted the sweetness of the lime tea. The intricately woven relationship between these characters and the expert pacing had me at the edge of my seat, turning the pages as fast as possible all the while wanting to savor every sentence, and even going back to reread a particularly beautiful passage."
--Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield's Books (Healdsburg, CA)

"Wilkinson's chilling story about three women living under Saddam Hussein's brutal and oppressive regime draws from the time she spent in Iraq. Her distinctive perspective is especially compelling when she contrasts the lives of the two Iraqi women - estranged friends Huda and Rania - with that of Ally, the Australian diplomat's wife who unwittingly brings them together...through their bravery and determination all three women are able to write new endings for their stories."
--Margo Grimm Eule, East City Bookshop (Washington, DC)

"Marvelous...mesmerizing. It was a book I couldn't put down. It has stayed with me. All I can say is 'WOW - read it. You won't be disappointed.'"
--Virginia Holsten, Vinton Public Library (Vinton, IA)

"When the Apricots Bloom is an extraordinary novel, that is both poignant and hopeful. Friendship, family, trust and betrayal all factor into the lives of three remarkable women in Baghdad, under the suffocating reign of Saddam Hussein and his secret police. This powerful saga will have your heart racing, as these women risk everything for their children's freedom."
--Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store (Lake Forest, IL)

About The Author

Gina Wilkinson is an award-winning journalist, author, former foreign correspondent, and documentary maker who's reported from some of the world's most intriguing and perilous places for the BBC, NPR, ABC, and other renowned public broadcasters. During two decades living and working in hotspots across the globe, she spent more than a year in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. At that time, Iraq was virtually sealed off from the outside world, and Gina lived under tight surveillance. One of her closest Iraqi friends even worked as a secret police informant, reporting on her every move. Gina now works in international development, supporting efforts to end poverty in the developing world. She lives in Australia and can be found online at
Dimensions (Overall): 8.24 Inches (H) x 5.62 Inch (W) x .8 Inch (D)
Weight: .68 Pounds
Suggested Age: 22 Years and Up
Number of Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction + Literature Genres
Sub-Genre: Literary
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: Paperback
Author: Gina Wilkinson
Language: English
Street Date: February 2, 2021
TCIN: 79809886
UPC: 9781496729354
Item Number (DPCI): 059-04-3832
Origin: Made in the USA
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Shipping details

Estimated ship dimensions: 1 inches length x 5.5 inches width x 8.25 inches height
Estimated ship weight: 0.812 pounds
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4.3 out of 5 stars with 4 reviews
100% would recommend
1 recommendations

When the apricots bloom

4 out of 5 stars
Thumbs up graphic, would recommend
Novel - 2 years ago, Verified purchaser
Easy read that has a good story as well historical information about the lives of humans living under the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein.
Did you find this review helpful?

A beautifully written and suspenseful story of Hussein's Iraq

5 out of 5 stars
lurkykitty - 3 years ago
Gina Wilkinson based this book on her own experiences as a journalist and as a "dependent spouse" living in Iraq during the time Saddam Hussein was in power and during the Iraq War. When the Apricots Bloom is a beautifully written story about three women and how their lives are affected by Saddam's dictatorship. Ally is the young, naive wife of an Australian diplomat and Huda is a secretary at the Australian embassy. Rania, an artist and gallery owner, is the daughter of a Sheik, who has fallen on hard times since the death of her father and husband. Rania and Huda were childhood friends who have grown apart and reconnect during the story. Ally is searching for information about her deceased mother who worked in Iraq as a nurse in the 70s. Huda has been unwillingly recruited as an informant by the Mukhabarat, Hussein's secret police, to befriend and gather information about Ally. The Mukhabarat have threatened to put Huda's son in the fedayeen, a brutal, atrocious militia. Rania is determined to keep her daughter safe from Saddam Hussein's son, who has his eye on her. The story is narrated in their alternating points of view and provide the perspectives of a foreigner and two ordinary Iraqi women who must overcome the fear and mistrust, caused by the situation in which they have been placed. The characters were well developed and the reader develops great sympathy for their difficulties as "in Iraq, every friendship is a risk.” The descriptions of the danger and oppression suffered by the people of Iraq are terrifying and heartbreaking. The book touches on the history of Iraq and a better time when Iraq was thriving culturally and politically. Until the Apricots Bloom, is well-written, informative, riveting, suspenseful and highly recommended.
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Fascinating story

4 out of 5 stars
Perriknows - 3 years ago
This is the story of three women whose lives intersect during the reign of Saddam Hussain in Iraq. Ally, the wife of the Australian deputy ambassador, Huda, an Iraqi working as a secretary at the Australian Embassy, and Rania a childhood friend of Huda's, whos family was wealthy and she was the daughter of a sheikh, but now are almost destitute. Huda befriends Ally, to be an informant to the secret police, because Huda's son is threatened. Rania is drawn back into Huda's circle because her daughter is threatened by one of Saddam's sons. Ally is looking for information about her mother who worked in Iraq in the 1970's. All three women have secrets that they keep to themselves, unless it benefits them to share. The terror, scare tactics, and targeting the most precious thing a parent has, by the Saddam Hussein regime, is balanced with the women coming together to help, console, and lean upon each other. Ultimately the question is, to save your family, what will a mother endure? As the great-granddaughter of a physician who emigrated to American from Persia/Iran in the early 1900's, I was intrigued by this book. From family oral history, we would have been in the same situation as Rania. Once having been part of the ruling class, then after the regime change, having nothing. The Middle East has always intrigued me because of my genealogical roots there. A fascinating book by a new author.
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Great historical fiction

4 out of 5 stars
Breywar - 3 years ago
When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkerson was a heart wrenching, tear jerking history lesson that I wasn’t expecting. We are introduced to our three main characters, Huda, Ally and Raina who live in Baghdad during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Huda is a former extremely poor girl who has gotten a job at the embassy, and is reached out to by the secret policy to get information from her on her employer Tom and his wife Ally. She can’t refuse, or she’ll be thrown into torture and possibly her family as well. Ally is the wife of a very high ranking embassy employee and has a lot of secrets of her own, that could just put her in peril. Rania is a former close friend of Huda and a rich artist who is hired to paint a portrait of the presidents and his sons... and causes danger for her daughter. This book was extremely well written. It is a glimpse into the history of Iraq when tensions were extremely high, and regime was extremely strong. I have never read anything from this point of view where we see what the citizens go through and I genuinely enjoyed every second of reading through this book. The ending was shocking, the events were wild, it was one of those books I couldn’t put down. There are some scenes that are slightly graphic in their description as it is very hard to know their struggles were real. Im giving it a 4.5/5 stars. The beginning was a bit slow, as it was setting up the plot, but it was definitely necessary. I highly recommend checking this out. Its very different from my usual reads, but I really liked it!
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