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Burnt Shadows

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  6,374 ratings  ·  862 reviews
An alternate cover edition of this ISBN can be found here.

Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the United States in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantánamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.

Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veran
Paperback, 370 pages
Published April 27th 2009 by Picador USA (first published 2009)
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Penny de Vries I think he disappears from public view, the CIA take him on and he is forced to become a double agent lest his family is harmed.

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
For me,it is Kamila Shamsie's second best book,after Home Fire.Not that I'd call it a great book,but it's still much better than the rest of her books.

It tries to tackle too many subjects,and doesn't quite succeed.It begins with the story of a Japanese victim of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

But if the idea was to show the destructive effects of the atomic bomb on this victim,that doesn't happen.The Japanese woman moves to India and goes through the rest of her life, without showing any ill eff
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
A novel with great scope ranging over a vast sweep of modern history, written with great warmth and understanding. The characters are well drawn and believable. Characters with flaws, who make mistakes which have consequences, but who are understandable and feel like real people.
The novel is broken up into three sections. The first is in the 1940s; in 1945 Hiroko Tanaka has become engaged to Konrad Weiss, a German living, like her in Nagasaki. He is killed by the atomic bomb and she is injured.
Barbara H
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Merilee,Maria, Gail
Recommended to Barbara H by: Rose O (with gratitude)
Shelves: asia, holocaust-ww-2
"Burnt Shadows" was a gift to me from a friend who valued this book highly. It was a gift for me because it has given me much food for thought. At the outset, I was determined to enjoy this book to share the pleasure with my friend, but as I progressed I could observe why she ranked it so extremely well.

I will not attempt a summary here. One can easily find that elsewhere. The scope of this novel is huge. It spans about 60 years, from the A- Bomb in Nagasaki, to the partitioning of India and Pa
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Zanna by: Alice
'Why? Can't women travel alone in India?'

Elizabeth almost laughed. So much for those demure Japanese women of all the stories she'd heard. Here was one who would squeeze the sun in her fist if she ever got the chance; yes, and tilt her head back to swallow its liquid light.
Here is how to write a novel with emotional truth: find your characters, and let them make their stories. But Kamila Shamsie, who in Burnt Shadows does this so superbly, has done so much more. When I shared the opening themes
Anum S.
She had not thought of destination so much as departure, wheeling through the world with the awful freedom of someone with no one to answer to. She had become, in fact, a figure out of myth. The character who loses everything and is born anew in blood.

This book is amazing. No, scratch that. Amazing is probably too weak a word here. Think Astounding. Remarkable. The kind of book you tell your best friend to read so you can discuss it together, going over all the finer points.

I’ll admit, I start
Roman Clodia
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the first two-thirds of this book it was 5-stars in my head, up there with Home Fire - then the final third just became too convenient, too schematic, too obviously plotted. I could believe that someone present in Nagasaki the day the bomb was dropped could take herself to India to witness the dying days of the Raj, then the Partition and birth of Pakistan. I could even accept that her teenage son should become embroiled in the politics of Afghanistan when the Soviets invade, given his mixed ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Ken-ichi
A twisting yarn of a book that struck me as something written fresh on the heels of 9-11. There were certain elements of the plot that I thought were probably even more impactful for readers who read this book a few years after that horrific event.

Beginning in Nagasaki, Japan, just before the second nuclear bomb drops, the story ventures to India, Turkey, Pakistan, and New York as it follows two families, one of German-English and another Japanese-Pakistani extraction. Lives mirror and intersec
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star-reads, novels
I was impressed with the scope of this novel - from Japan to Pakistan to America, and covering about half a century - it touched upon a broad spectrum of cultures, politics and lives, with the twists and turns in the story largely governed by geographic location.

For me it was all about identity, and how a sense of identity can be damaged by the horror of an atomic bomb, or by failing exams, by subterfuge, or by looking different to those around you. But as well as exploring alienation, this boo
João Carlos
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2015

The Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, which was obliterated on 9 August 1945. The replacement was built in 1959 - Photograph: Shigeo Hayashi/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

”Sombras Queimadas” o quinto romance da paquistanesa Kamila Shamsie (n. 1973) está dividido em quatro partes: ”O Mundo ainda Desconhecido” (Nagasáqui, 9 de Agosto de 1945), ”Pássaros Velados” (Deli, 1947), ”Guerreiros Meio-Anjos” (Paquistão, 1982 – 1983) e ”A Velocidade Necessária para Substituir a Perda (Nova Iorque, Afeganistão, 20
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time. It's an important and beautifully written read, give it a chance. ...more
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read so much, and so quickly, that it takes a rare exception of a book to send me searching for post-it notes and a pen to write down quotes from the writing. I found the writing in this book so compelling, that I stopped reading everything else for two whole days and just immersed myself in the story of a woman who finds herself in the midst of several acts of war in the lifetime. From Nagasaki where she is scared mentally and physically, to Delhi where she runs with her new husband from the ...more
Jul 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read, terrifying in parts, heart-breaking in others and beautifully written throughout - this story has had a huge impact on me and I know it will linger for a long while.

From the beginning of the book when the atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, the effects of this act and of war on the familes involved in the story line shows just how pointless war is.

Kamila Shamsie paints some vivid pictures that are difficult to shift and often invoke high emotion.

I'd highly recommend this novel
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
It is a saga of two families whose lives are inextricably intertwined. It is an epic tale sweeping across continents over a sixty-year period. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie begins in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945; goes to India just before partition in 1947; to Pakistan in 1982-1983; and concludes in New York and Afghanistan in 2001-2002.

The central figure is Hiroko Tanaka, a Nagasaki resident. The novel opens with her as a twenty-one-year-old and engaged to a man of English and German descent.
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, from the Orange Prize shortlist, has had terribly mixed reviews. How can a book that tries to tie together the bombing of Nagasaki, the partition of India, the Afghan conflict and 9/11 possibly work? Well, it does - I absolutely loved it. Hiroko is a wonderful character - she lives on the page in a way a character hasn't for me in ages, and she's the anchor that holds this enormous story together. The writing is quite beautiful - some of the imagery will really stay with me, but it re ...more
The journey from Hiroko Tanaka to an almost Hiroko Konrad and finally, Hiroko Ashraf was intensely poetic and linked to the many absurdities of life. Everything written in the book can be reflected in one simple phrase, "The speed necessary to replace loss." More than a search for identity, Burnt Shadows is a tale about learning the secret about loss. There is no overcoming, just a bitter fading of it and an ever pronounceable taste that can surface anytime.

For Raza Konrad Ashraf, the narration
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 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, doubl
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie is an ambitious epic book that grabs you in the prologue, as an unnamed narrator is disrobed and left to wait naked with only a steel bench to sit on. His thought is – “How did it come to this.” How stark is this setting – but the grace of the language warns you that this is a story that you want to see unfold.

The story spans 60 years and takes the reader to five different countries: Nagasaki, August 1945; Delhi 1947; Pakistan 1982-3; and New York/ Afghanistan 200
Huda Bukhari
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Undoubtedly a 5.0.

How swiftly the author has swept through the eras; three generations suffering at the hand of fate.. and war. How effortlessly she has woven the myriad of ideas, linking them with each other through real life occurrences is particularly commendable.

Not only is this novel thought provoking but it also tells a tale of recent times. How war is bringing nothing but turmoil and destruction. How misunderstandings and lack of communication gives chance for evil to prosper and one to
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all my GR friends
A great read! I highly recommend it. You will feel challenged and enlightened, possibly provoked, and undoubtedly enriched.

Beautiful lyrical prose. This book was an Orange Prize finalist.
Chelsey Clammer
Brilliant. Beautiful. The way that Shamsie deals with trauma, hatred, and racism throughout the novel are astonishing. This book is just so well written--I can't get over it. ...more

I finished this last night. Three or four stars? Do I REALLY like it or do I like it. While I was reading it, I REALLY liked it, but with time it is the story that will remain not all the wonderful lines that are so intriguing. I think it will turn into an "I liked it" book. You will thoroughly enjoy the time spent with this book if you enjoyed the quotes below. Don't think three stars means, aacch choose something else. I loved it b/c it was thought provoking. The last third of the b
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Maybe it’s because I spent a good part of my college years studying trauma and how people experience and record it; maybe because World War II and its fallout—both figurative and literal—is a topic I find myself drawn to again and again (my thesis was based on an oral history project I conducted that recorded the stories of college students-turned-soldiers in the ‘40s.) Maybe it’s because the writing is so damn lush, the characters so real. Whatever the reason, Ka
I loved this book, but feel too overwhelmed to write about it now. I will say I will definitely be reading more of Kamila Shamsie! The only reason I rated it 4 stars instead of 5 is I reserve 5 stars for books I have reread and still loved, or books I loved so much I immediately wanted to read them.
The subject matter, which you can read about in the description, is simply to tragic and heartbreaking for me to feel this way, but I highly recommend reading this novel!
Burnt Shadows (audio book)Burnt Shadows, by Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie, was nominated for the Orange Prize in 2009. Ambitious in its scope, it is a compelling novel that loses its way at the end.

Capably narrated in this audio book edition by Jane McDowell who only occasionally confuses the multiple accents she has to portray, Burnt Shadows is the story of Hiroko Tanaka, who survives the Nagasaki bomb blast but loses everything she holds dear. This novel vividly portrays the profound bewilde
Zarish Fatima
I started this book with no hope of ever liking it. Mainly because it had names in Japanese and German that i could not pronounce. It was slow in some places but picked the pace in the end.
It is precisely the story of a woman who leaves Japan in hope of a better world trying to out run her past, the story is 55 years of her life from there on.
It shows world at its worst and how love, friendship, forgiveness and loyalty can still exist in it. How every decision we make is not independent it conc
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hiroko Tanaka's life has been irrevocably marred by the American bombing of Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. Not only did she lose her father, village, and way of life, but also the young German artist Konrad, with whom she was beginning a relationship. After the kimono she was wearing in the blast becomes fused with her skin, she bears scars shaped like birds across her back. It is with these painful scars and memories that she leaves Japan, unable to find her place in society after the war. Hir ...more
Holly Scudero
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: san-francisco-br
I am absolutely loving this book! Favorite quotes so far:

(On debates regarding the formation of Pakistan) And so it went on and on, and in each group Sajjad found those who made complete sense and in each group also those whose opinions made him want to scatter seeds over the speakers so the pigeons would swoop down and stop their words with a tumult of feathers.

(On the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki) ...he knew by her voice that he was going to hear something that she would sp
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this book for book club. I've had so much on recently so it took me longer to get through than is ideal, but even so with all the breaks, this books really impactful.

Reading the blurb I wondered if it was setting itself up for a bit of a defeat; how could Shamsie possibly cover Nagasaki, partition of India, 9/11, and the Afghan wars in a single story?!? But she does, and rather masterfully at that. It's one of those books I honestly think should be compulsory reading in schools, f
Burnt Shadows is an unusual story. There are strong characters in Hiroko and Sajjad which make for great reading. The story comes across as somewhat contrived though, moving from Nagasaki to Delhi to Pakistan to New York. The motivation and behaviour of some of the characters; especially Raza is difficult to understand. The book moves well towards the end and finishes with some good sequences, examining attitudes and stereotypes, and tragedy which hides behind the so called larger good. For the ...more
Perhaps if the book had finished in Pakistan, it would have been a better novel. Too intricately woven, drudgingly long, and missing strands of logic here and there, this book seemed like one of Sydney Sheldon's. Although I musts ay, the dialogues at the end of the book were some of the very best ones! That could be the reason for the critical acclaim, the insight of the author related to the wars of nations! ...more
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Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Karachi, where she grew up. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at the University of Massachusetts she wrote In The City By The Sea , published by Granta Books UK in 1998. This first novel was shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys Award in the UK, and Shamsie rec ...more

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