South African author Shubnum Khan just published her haunting second novel The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years with Viking (US), Oneworld Publications (UK), and PanMacmillan (SA) on January 9. This atmospheric novel set in a South African estate by the sea is truly a treat for both the romance reader as well as the horror one.

Although it was once a grand estate by the South African coast, Akbar Manzil is now a decrepit mansion by the sea and serves as a boarding house for lonely Indian residents. When Sana and her father arrive at the mansion after her mother’s death, she is curious about the history of the building and the many ghosts that haunt it, including a kind but shy djinn.

Sana discovers the forgotten East Wing, home to broken and abandoned objects and a secret door, locked for decades. Behind the door, Sana finds a bedroom frozen in time and an old diary that written by a young woman named Meena, who died there tragically a century ago. Also in the room is a grieving djinn, an invisible spirit who has haunted the mansion since Meena’s death. Sana finds herself obsessed with Meena’s story and digs into the dark past to unearth the tragedy of what happened to Meena a hundred years ago.

The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years has received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and was selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. And rightfully so! The book is a haunting love story for the ages written through the lens of a mystery, from the perspective of the young Sana.

The chapters alternate between the past and the present, as Meena, a factory maid, finds herself becoming a second wife to the businessman Akbar Ali Khan. As the couple fall deeper in love, their differences give way to trust and companionship while Akbar’s first wife, mother, and two children try to come up with ways to get rid of Meena. Ultimately, the difficult dynamics of the household end in tragedy for all, but Meena and Akbar’s tender love story stays with the reader until the very last page.

As Sana discovers Meena’s story bit by bit, she finds herself healing from her own wounds in the past – her mother’s death, her sister’s haunting presence, and her attempts to support her father throughout. When the book comes to a close, the residents of Akbar Manzil – all unique and dynamic in their own way – are lonely no longer since they now have a found family.

Khan’s novel might look like a mystery about a haunted house on the surface, but underneath lies a touching tale of migration and its losses, the changing tunes of love, and the coming together of a community despite it all. It is a reminder of the South Asian histories hidden within South Africa’s corners.

Shubnum Khan is a South African author and artist. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, HuffPost, O the Oprah Magazine, The Sunday Times, New Contrast, and Saraba Magazine. She has a degree in Media Studies and a Master’s in English from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She was shortlisted for the Miles Moreland Writing Scholarship for African Writers and selected as a Mellon Fellow at Stellenbosch University in 2019.

If you enjoy books involving suspense such as Ukamaka Olisakwe’s Don’t Answer When They Call Your Name or books that explore home and belonging like Haji Jabir’s Black Foam, then The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years needs to be on your to-read list!


Buy The Djinn Waits a Hundred YearsAmazon (US) | Penguin Random House | Amazon (UK)