Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Wasted Vigil” as Want to Read:
The Wasted Vigil
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Wasted Vigil

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  1,364 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
From the author of Maps for Lost Lovers, a new novel, at once beautiful and blistering, about war today told through the lives of five people who come together by chance–and tragically revealed circumstance– in post—9/11 Afghanistan.

Five disparate lives intersect through decades of invasion, occupation, and violence. There’s Marcus, an English expat who was married to an o
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by Bond Street Books (first published 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Wasted Vigil, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Heather what a wonderful question!
I might start by thinking about the family and substitute-family relationships... the characters fall into overlapping…more
what a wonderful question!
I might start by thinking about the family and substitute-family relationships... the characters fall into overlapping patterns of the core triangle of "father/mother/child. " E.g. Lara and David as substitute daughter and son for Marcus (replacing the lost Zameen and the beautiful village boy whose name I don't think we ever learn); e.g. Zameen and her child who has a literal father (the Soviet rapist/rescuer) and at least two symbolic fathers (the nameless village boy Zameen loved, and David the American); e.g. David as an older brother-figure for James Palantine, (because James' father Christopher Palantine was a father-figure to David) thus recreating his relationship with his own lost older brother; et al...

I might also think about the dual nature of so many characters -- the Soviet rapist/rescuer; the Americans who allow a refugee camp to be bombed; the father-figures who are also killers and betrayers (Christopher Palantine); Casa's mix of attraction and rage toward Duina; Qatrina as a healer who is forced to maim (books and people) ... Maybe that's not exactly psychoanalytic, but I think characters are constantly finding their empathetic, caring, protective impulses perverted into actions that dominate, hurt, and kill. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 30, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, war, afghanistan
A lost review of mine rediscovered
Satisfying on many levels. Balances love vs. war, trust vs. despair, chaos vs. grounding in everyday beauty of the moment. Elucidates the many threads to the problems of Afghanistan while keeping alive the hope that family bonds, common humanity, and the rich cultural heritage of this country can somehow rise above the hate of various factions threatening its destruction. A surprise in the author's approach is that Afghan people are largely not rendered directly
Oct 26, 2008 Naeem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Evgenia, E.Hope Sims, Anne, julie, Rebecca T, joel, steph, nethra, sara-maria, kiehl, kiehl, kiehl
Verdict: mixed feelings. Let me sort them out.

A. The principle

If we did not want a story with some, and perhaps lots of, generosity towards those we call “enemy” then we could all settle for W’s version of current world events: we are good; they are evil (or childish, uneducated, uncivilized natives); and, they are motivated to destroy us because they envy us our goodness. So what I want from a novel is to help me understand the inner workings and outer actions of someone who I cannot seem to u
Naveed Qazi
Jun 06, 2011 Naveed Qazi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How often do we hear about writers who put decade long efforts to write fiction, working in secluded cottages without any conscience of seasons, weather, guilds and society? Rarely. Nadeem Aslam fits that genre. He has tirelessly done menial jobs to earn a living and to create an isolation just to write better books, to dive deep into imagination. He writes by blackening out his windows, sleeps on the floor and makes books his pillows, and then continues to write even more on prize money. A devo ...more
Jul 27, 2010 Sana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting the usual fare when I picked up this novel set in Afghanistan, but what I wasn't expecting was to find the author repeatedly misquoting from the Quran. For most of the story, I thought he was just trying to show the reader the jihadist mindset and the erroneous light in which they hijack certain verses from the Quran to further their cause. But at no point did he clarify this.

Besides misquoting, he also made his characters dish out statements like, "Islam at its core does not be
Apr 20, 2012 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most remarkable books I've ever read. It is both deeply poetic and painfully violent; sympathetic and tragic; enlightening and maddening. The FEEL of it remains with me still. I was amazed at how well the author created sympathy for characters with conflicting perspectives, enabling the reader to understand why each felt justified in his position, while showing with the most subtle irony just how tragic their conflict is: how unknowingly entwined they all are, like the whole of humani ...more
Dec 06, 2008 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In case you missed the Kite Flyer, Bookseller from Kabul and so forth, Afghanistan is not a place you want to be, ever, and after reading this I forgot about the mice in the laundry room, the possums in the roof, and the rising cost of organic strawberries.
I loved this book for its fantastic smell imagery, it is a rare sensual experience to smell blood, sandalwood, pomengrenates in the same paragraph. Also, there are several parts of the book that are so gruesome that I am still shuddering week
Mai Laakso
Pakistanilaissyntyinen Lontoossa asuva kirjailija Nadeem Aslam kirjoittaa kolmannessa teoksessaan Elävältä haudatut nykyajan sodista, sodista joita käydään Afganistanissa. Kauniit unikot kirjan kannessa kuvaavat sitä, millä keinoin sotaa rahoitetaan, huumeilla, jota saadaan unikoista. Afganistan on ollut Neuvostoliiton, Talebanien ja USAn taistelukenttä, jota kirjassa käydään läpi samalla, kun tarinan henkilöt käyvät vuoropuhelua omien muistojensa ja tarkoitusperiensä kanssa.
Olen aiemmin lukenu
Claire Zoghb
Sep 30, 2008 Claire Zoghb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am only halfway through this book -- and I hope it never ends. I am savoring every word, every image, every scent...
Laurie Neighbors
As I was reading this novel, I was thinking of the recent "psychological breakthrough" distributed around the internet that reading novels increases empathy. I was also thinking of a sociology undergraduate class I helped teach several years ago that asked the students to analyze attitudes, beliefs, and facts about the "US War on Terror." The books we assigned were heavy for undergrads -- Blow Back by Chalmers Johnson, Blood and Oil by Michael Klare, The Occupation by Patrick Cockburn, Tinderbox ...more
Terri Jacobson
Nadeem Aslam was born in Pakistan and currently lives in England. His fiction has won many awards. This book is about 5 very different characters who come together in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks. Marcus is an English Muslim physician who has made a life in Afghanistan. He was married to an Afghan woman who was murdered by the Taliban, and he has had his left hand chopped off by them. David is an American, ex-CIA, who had been in love with Marcus's daughter and is looking for her so ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Amina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How can you not fall in love with a story which is set in a house where books are nailed to the ceiling and great works of art peep through the whitewash. The five characters whose lives intersect in this strange house in post 9/11 war torn Afghanistan are Marcus, an English expat who was married to an outspoken Afghani doctor; David, a former American spy, who has seen Afghanistan through the Russians, the Taliban, and the Americans; Lara from St. Petersburg looking for her brother, a Russian s ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It felt as if I was not only reading it, but that I was experiencing it, and it was quite simply the most moving novel I have ever experienced. To set the major portion of the story in a house dedicated to a celebration of the five senses was altogether fitting and the author's brilliant, poetic style brought both that house and the story itself alive.

I saw a piece of myself in each of the characters, despite never having been placed in the heart-wrenching experiences they were in, and came to r
Jan 10, 2016 Paola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot is an excuse to portray a people and a land ravaged by war. It reads very well, although every so often there are some excessively "didactic" passages, where the author slips into lecturing the reader. And the characters are mostly unidimensional - either thoroughly good, or thoroughly bad, or thoroughly manipulated, or thoroughly braved, or thoroughly evil... yout get the gist. Altogether however they come together to draw a very vivid picture of the hopelessness of the lives too many ...more
Do the goals ever justify the means?

A beautifully written book, but very hard to read. So very hard to stomach.
A Russian woman, Lara; two Americans, David and James; and a young Afghan jihadi nicknamed Casa converge on the rural home of Marcus, English expatriate living on the shores of a lake in rural Afghanistan near the Tora Bora caves where the US forces failed to capture Osama bin Laden. The five are linked by known and unknown bonds of blood and friendship. Lara is trying to find out what happened to her brother who disappeared when he was serving in Afghanistan the Soviet Army in the 1980s; Marcus ...more
Oct 31, 2009 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written, complex novel, that using memory, and some truly beautiful imagery weaves a tale of Afghanistan that is really quite unforgettable. Often sad and brutal, the story of Marcus Caldwell - who lives in an old perfume fctory - and the people who arrive at his house sometimes makes the reader want to look away, and yet you read on, for the stories are compelling. We have Lara, the Russian woman searcing for her brother who went missing during the Afghan Soviet war,and th ...more
Arisha Salman
This book does and doesn't deserve a review. The rating makes it evident that I didn't think much of the book, not because it's a bad book or that it's not well written, it's because it didn't suit my taste.

The book had elements relating to politics, history, war and many others which made it seem very vague and off track. The inclusion of many characters in the story made the plot very confusing. I also failed to understand the division of the book into two parts.

So, this wasn't the kind of b
Nov 04, 2009 Dirk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a harrowing novel. I picked it up partly because of its topicality, but partly because I loved so much his previous novel, Maps for Lost Lovers. The language of that book is romantically sensual and metaphorical; the language of this novel has flashes of that quality, but is more spare. Aslam's metaphoric imagination enters more into action. For example a man driven to walk to one village from another in open country unknown to him is told to hold a bowl of water in front of him and keep ...more
Danyal Effendi
It was my first read of Aslam's work but couldn't find much attractiveness in it as opposed what I have read about him. The story was not very catchy and there were times when I had to force myself to read just for the sake of finishing the book. There was much negativity about Islam and Afghanistan. I think he wrote it for the western world to win awards.
The good thing is the writing style, which I found very distinctive. The language and vocabulary is good. He had referred, many times, to hist
Mar 09, 2009 Ernest rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: afghanistan
I have mixed feelings. The author writes beautifully, but I thought it was a bit too detailed and descriptive at times. I found myself reading pages over again to understand what the author was trying to convey in several situations. Much of the plot is inferred through symbolism, which makes it unique but somewhat difficult at times.

Ultimately, I am glad that I read the story. I felt that I learned a great deal about Afghanistan, and was offered a glimpse into the minds of both extremes (CIA op
Ann Tonks
Apr 06, 2016 Ann Tonks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Nadeem Aslam is one of the few writers to whom I have ever sent a fan letter. I wrote because I'd been so moved and so impressed by his novel "Maps for Lost Lovers".

"The Wasted Vigil" is a terrifyingly dark and tragic and beautiful and gut-wrenching book. I don't know how to write it about it because it's story (set in Afghanistan) is dense and depressing.

One way of summarising my response os to revew to the pomegranates on the cover of the book. Tough skin; rich and yet delicate and yet tart s
Sep 05, 2008 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE WASTED VIGIL was stunningly beautiful. Aslam has an incredibly rich and descriptive voice--Afghanistan really comes alive through his portrayal. He's really able to describe the devastation the country has experienced in the last thirty years better than any nonfiction account I've read. The book contains some truly grim passages that make you feel as though you've been punched in the gut. My only problem with the book is that I felt the characters--while very well developed as individuals-- ...more
This book is a 'must read'...beautifully written and brilliantly crafted, it is a gut-wrenching tale of the horrors of war. A story of Afghanistan and its tragic recent history, scarred successively by the Russians, the Taliban and USA.....and yet how the politics of this meaningless conflict, has so little in common with the ground reality of the people who suffer the consequences.How simple lives, mutilated both physically and psychologically by war and hatred can still find love in their hear ...more
Mar 06, 2016 Alyson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably 3.5 stars actually. I liked it but I found the content depressing in that it deals with the waste of war, the stupidity of violence and revenge, and the destruction of Afghanistan by the West (USA and UK) and the former USSR.
It's difficult to 'like' it therefore, given the descriptions of violence of death.

But, the characters, the story lines, and the links through the ages are good, and create and convey the people and places very convincingly.
Mar 23, 2009 Carianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With an admitted bias since it is set in Afghanistan and discusses everything from the Soviet invasion to the current status of warlords, I was totally sucked into this book. It is outside my normal sphere of novels, but the imagery was so powerful, admittedly disturbing in places, and the overwhelming sense of being controlled by circumstances intrigued me. Thank you again Montgomery Library for an excellent suggestion.
Jen Squire
Aug 07, 2013 Jen Squire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an example: "This is among the few things that can be said about love with any confidence. It is small enough to be contained within the heart, but pulled thin it would drape the entire world."

And that's just one example.

I feel sorry for whatever I read next. It certainly feels as though I should have a respectful pause after this.
Feb 12, 2012 Meg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely beautiful work of art. Masterfully written, complex characters and a plot that is suspenseful and extremely informative of post 9/11 ( and before) Afghanistan. The one book that I would recommend above all others of everything I have read in the past several years.
Jul 18, 2010 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ermina, palwasha
It was a brilliant story of Afghanistan from the time of Soviet invasion in 1980's till the American invasion in 2001. An amazing fiction, very touching and moving!
Bookmarks Magazine
Nadeem Aslam
May 18, 2010 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readon
This book was very well written, but incredibly bleak and depressing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Ginseng Hunter
  • A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
  • The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban
  • Children of Dust: A Portrait of a Muslim as a Young Man
  • Ruins
  • The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland
  • An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan
  • Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream
  • Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam
  • Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy
  • A Girl Made of Dust
  • The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes
  • Burnt Shadows
  • The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
  • Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
  • The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power
  • Censoring an Iranian Love Story
  • Peace
Aslam was born in Pakistan in 1966 and moved to Britain at age 14. His family left Pakistan to escape President Zia's regime.

His novel Maps for Lost Lovers, winner of the Kuriyama Prize, took him more than a decade to complete. Aslam has stated that the first chapter alone took five years to complete, and that the following story in the book took seven months to complete before rejecting it. At th
More about Nadeem Aslam...

Share This Book

“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” 51 likes
“On the journey towards the beloved, you live by dying at every step” 28 likes
More quotes…