It's an outdate edition by the looks of it (current edition on sale shows Delphi on the cover, while this one has a photo of the Sounion temple), but...moreIt's an outdate edition by the looks of it (current edition on sale shows Delphi on the cover, while this one has a photo of the Sounion temple), but still useful as a reference guide. (less)
Deswani's first-person narrative presents a rather predictable but humorous chick-lit story. Many of the scenes are straight out of a romantic comedy...moreDeswani's first-person narrative presents a rather predictable but humorous chick-lit story. Many of the scenes are straight out of a romantic comedy film or sitcom episode. Half the fun of reading this is figuring out which facts Anju is not revealing about her self and her past, until she can't avoid it any more. Overall I felt the book dragged on for too long, and then when Mr. Right eventually is found, everything wraps up nice and tightly very quickly without any humorous situations from there on. (less)
I actually enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to others. But it failed to 'wow' me.... For some reason the plot seemed a tad too obvious. I...moreI actually enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to others. But it failed to 'wow' me.... For some reason the plot seemed a tad too obvious. I could tell more or less what was going to happen, in which direction the scenes were developing. So I was reading at two levels, one to read the plot, and another to sense/study the words on the page. That second aspect however wasn't taking me anywhere. I expected to be engaged by the narrative exposition – looking forward to discover irony, double meanings, etc. - the kind of elements I had previously admired in Shamsie's novel Broken Verses. Somehow the story and the telling of it felt as if the novel lacked much of that. I had the distinct impression the novel was written with a film adaptation in mind. “The English Patient” I thought on a number of times. Eventually I came to the final section’s title; it validated my impression. Without saying it's necessarily a bad thing, there were also moments when works by other writers came to mind (Nicole Krauss The History of Love, Stephanie Kallos Broken for You, Marina Lewicka We Are All Made of Glue, Andre Dubus III The House of Sand and Fog). I'm not saying that Shamsie is emulating any of these works, it's just that her novel didn't seem distinctively unique from these other works with similar themes. If Burnt Shadows is derivative of any particular story, Vikram Seth's Two Lives (a biography of his Indian uncle who married a German woman in England after WWII) may have been a major source: Hiroko's stoic quietude is an apt homage to V. Seth's German "Aunty." And for Raza Hazara's character, I would venture to guess the tragic& complex story of Carlos Mavroleon may have been an inspiration.
The story should have gotten under my skin, but it didn’t. Why not? It's not that I sensed the plot elements lacked credibility, or that these characters' coming together, drawing apart, only to be united again, seemed too farfetched to bear a resemblance to reality. Far from it, it mirrored my own family’s photo album (WWII, post-Partition Karachi, the Suez, a cemetary in Korea, etc.) and I had no problem with all these seemingly disparate elements coming together in a six-degrees of separation kind of way. Nearing the final page of the book, I tried to find the root of my lack of excitement over this novel. One thing that bothered me is the “young” generation's (Kim's and Raza's) lack of a coherent political conscience. At this point I felt the characters lacked a substantial dimension; they became pawns in the storyboard the author was setting up for the final climactic scene. Despite the complexity of their heritage and their "inside" knowledge of history's details, they come off as somewhat naive (in an insular sort of way, which they clearly weren't) and that did not convince me, given their background. More than anything, the last 40-50 pages of the book (the New York section) are the most "screenplayish" of all. It's all about plot; there is nothing of the carefully crafted dialogue and scenic descriptions of the first part of the book (the Nagasaki and Dilli sections). Another thing I felt cheated by is that we are told time and time again that Hiroko and Raza are fascinated by language, yet that is not reflected into the work itself. Having read Shamsie's Broken Verses, where the literary element is an integral feature of the story, I expected to find that kind of meta-fictional play at work here, too, but it is missing. (less)