Shamed by Sarbjit Kaur Athwal


In 1998, Sarbjit Athwal was called by her husband to attend a family meeting. It looked like just another family gathering. An attractive house in west London, a large dining room, two brothers, their mother, one wife. But the subject they were discussing was anything but ordinary. At the head of the group sat the elderly mother. She stared proudly around, smiling at her children, then raised her hand for silence. ‘It’s decided then,’ the o...

Details Shamed

Release DateJun 20th, 2013
PublisherVirgin Books
GenreNonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Memoir, Crime, True Crime

Reviews Shamed

  • Caroline
    I found the first part of the book fascinating - describing the author's upbringing in a loving but strict Sikh family, where she was strongly protected from any contamination from standard British culture. For instance she went to an ordinary school, but the moment she got home she had to take off her uniform. She wasn't allowed to go to the homes of the other school children, or allowed to invite any of them back to her house. She was brought u...
  • Jessica Fitzgerald
    Absolutely amazing. I can't imagine how Sarbjit went through all this. She is the one of the bravest people I have ever come across. She is absolutely amazing. I loved reading the book and can't imagine what it was like for her to go through all that, I'm so glad it was all worth it in the end and justice has been made. She did what she had to do even though she was risking her own life to protect someone else's name and she fought until the end....
  • Birgit
    I wouldn't say this was an enjoyable read but it was a very interesting read. It was a clash of cultures, they lived within their Indian Sikh culture/religion in a western world where honoring your elders is everything and bringing shame upon your family should be avoided at all costs.Surjit unfortunately brought shame on her family simply because she was fighting against the restraints of an abusive and bullying mother in law and husband. Being ...
  • Cindy Tansin
    This was a very interesting story with great potential. It was written quite well, but could have been told better. Two things kept this from being a really entertaining story: 1) She was a victim from start to end. I would have preferred she would have been stronger and chose to dictate her own path rather than simply going along, and 2) The story was almost entirely narrated. We were told what happened instead of sharing in the dialog and comin...
  • Emma MacDonald
    Normally, I tend to go for fiction over biographies or, in this case, memoirs, but something about this book jumped out at me. I decided to buy and I'm so glad that I did. This is an incredible story, and a rare insight into such a culture. I was inspired by Sarbjit's struggle to seek justice for her sister-in-law, going against decades of indoctrination and cultural pressure to fight for what she believed in. Honour killings are often so well co...
  • Safina Hussain
    There are books and then there is this book. WOW. To begin with I wasn't sure whether I was going to enjoy this, as although this topic interests me, there aren't many books that can do it justice. Sarbjit's story resonated with me in more ways than one and I hated that it came to an end, despite being glad that the evil of Bachan and Sukhdave was finally realised. There are many Sarbjit's and Surjit's living among us and I hope and pray that thi...
  • Myrtle Siebert
    This is a story I already knew a great deal about from media coverage at the time the incident happened and after during the court case. But when I mentioned having read the book many of my friends seemed unfamiliar with the issue. I appreciated the insight to the Sikh religion, the practices and prayer, vegetarianism, the arranged marriage custom practiced, even by immigrants to Britain.A forward written by detective Clive Driscoll who took up t...
  • Katie
    Sarbjit Kaur Athwal has to be one of the bravest women I've read about. It is hard to think stories like this are truly happening everyday in some families. The ideas of honour and shame being more important than a perspn's happiness, well-being and even their lives. I guess it is easy for those of us who are raised in Western culture to judge the people who practise such different beliefs to us, but as Sarbjit mentions, when you grow up and are ...
  • Chris
    This is not most smoothly written story. The flow in some sentences could have been better, for instance. How it is an engrossing read about culture, crime, and honor. Athwal is not critical of her religion (rightly) but more critical of the culture that allows for such things. Additionally, she also notes the failings of local authorities.
  • Savita Ramsumair
    HeartbreakingThis is one of the most intriguing novels I have read. My heart surely went out to Surjit and Sarbajhit. I applaud Sarbajhit's bravery to stand up for what is right. I was brought to tears while reading.
  • Sonika
    This book was an autobiography of the life of Sarbjit Kaur Athwal,a British-born Indian. It is a story of pain, betrayal and the on-going fear of death. Married in her late teens, Sarbjit was despised by her mother-in-law, who at any given chance would degrade and humiliate her daughter-in-laws. Sarbjit and her sister-in-law, was subjected to violence and continuous threats, to preserve the family honour. This is the story of a brave woman, who s...
  • Fiona
    A rating of 5 out of 5 means "this book is amazing". Amazing would actually be the wrong word to describe this - it is horrifying and chilling but I am so glad that I read it. I would describe the author as totally amazing - what a journey she has been on through life and to be strong enough and brave enough to now write this book is truly inspiring. I would strongly encourage everyone to read this story.
  • Kirndeep
    Oh My God! Sarbjit has shown great courage to make sure that Surjit got the justice she deserved. It's disgusting to think that people are ready to dismiss a murderer and save the honour of a name. Sikhism isn't about that but about treating everyone as ana equal. Sarbjit has done an amazing job by bringing Bachan and Sukhdave to the sentence they deserve. It must have been so tough for her but she did it. This book displays a courageous and brav...
  • Lizzie Uhr
    This book brought out so many emotions that I truly did not believe possible. What Sarbjit endured as a woman, mother, sister-in-law, wife and human is truly impossible, yet unfortunately true. This book is amazing, yet I would not use that word to describe one thing in this book except for amazingly brave. The courage she showed by telling her story is more than you could ever hope to display.
  • Marg
    A riveting read and an extraordinary story. Possibly the most shocking aspect is that three times the police were notified of what was happening - or had happened, and no action was taken. You would like to think that Sarbjit's story would give strength to others in controlling and unhappy marriages.
  • Joann
    I would give this a 4.5 if I could. This is a horrific story of appalling murder and awesome courage - couldn't put the book down. It's hard to believe families in a free country can still live and instill traditions of their past on their family. This was an interesting book which made me aware of different cultures within the world. Highly recommend.
  • Hurriyyah Falak
    A quick read , very sad account of honour killing and the threat and fear young women live under most of their lives. The courage it takes to stand up to loved ones is very difficult but a community too ? It is even harder! These events change lives forever.
  • Stephanie
    Fascinating book. Hard to believe its a biography. The authors internal struggle with religion and right vs. wrong is very powerful. The idea of shame versus honour plagues every decision the author makes.
  • Shelley
    I thought his story was fascinating and as a strong Independant woman it's hard to read stories about women who are still dependent and suppressed by their society. I couldn't put this book down
  • Nancy Croth
    The true story of an honour killing in Britain and the sister-in-law who put her life on the line to bring justice to the victim. A true nightmare but a story of courage beyond belief!
  • Ranbir
    Very well written and hats off to Sarbjit for her courage and sacrifices
  • Ririn Marina
    seriously it's not easy when you are sandwiched between revealing the thruth and to uphold family's honour and really need courage and support, and most importantly is to overcome FEAR!!!
  • Ella
    While this book titles itself on a fight for justice, I wouldn't say justice was really achieved in this case. Surjit's body was never found (reasonably so, since that particular river she was dumped in runs into Pakistan) and thus never given the proper rites and burial at home she deserved. The people who actually killed Surjit were also never arrested or jailed, even though the police know exactly who they were (but weren't named in the book)....
  • Tanya
    When I picked up this book I assumed it was about Muslim honor killings, but was surprised to find it's actually a story about a family of Sikhs from India. The murder of the rebellious Westernized sister-in-law of the author was actually ordered by the matriarch of the family, and carried out in secret on a trip to India. It was not until seven years later that the perpetrators were found guilty of murder, only after Athwal had the courage to co...
  • Godowd
    Could not put this book down. Knowing very little about Sikh culture I found it fascinating when she talked about the arranged marriage, the wedding etc - it is so alien to us of a very western culture. The book also shows how the family from all angles worked to keep her down and more importantly keep her silence. By the end you are crying out for her to go to the police and when she does and you see how difficult it was for her you are full of ...
  • Adrianna
    Eye openingEye opening- living in a multicultural era and truly international city, I am familiar with the use of words like ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ to control the female species, not only in Sikhism but also Islam. ‘Sarb’ is absolutely correct in her analysis, it’s not the religion but the human behind the interpretation of the religion, the human that uses his or her religion to carry out truly evil deeds usually originating from jea...
  • Linda L
    This book should be on the shelves of every school in the country, in fact it should be a part of the National Curriculum at senior schools. How many lives would it change and save?It's interesting to see the inside of a different culture and how difficult it must be for those who live within a strict Sikh faith within the western world. The bravery of Sarbjit in giving evidence and telling her story is just so humbling. The proof of knowing your...
  • Linda Sullivan
    Although I've been aware of honor killings, experiencing one through Sarbjit's memoir was eye-opening. Her fear was palpable. An easy read that was also an emotional read. Enlightening to learn about the Sikh religion, their family dynamic, and how beliefs can sometimes be misconstrued and taken to a tragic extreme.
  • Katy
    I found this book fascinating - I knew very little about the Sikhism prior to reading this and felt I learned much. I was particularly intrigued as Sarbjit is broadly the same age as me but her life and mine are worlds part despite living not far from each other. Thought provoking on many levels.
  • Sabina
    A crime committed within an Indian family with the purpose of controlling behavior and ''escaping'' shame. Being shamed in a religious community is such a great act that, in order to erase or avoid this, horrible crimes are committed.