Lestat's Reviews > Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
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it was amazing

This book was incredible. I love reading as many Man Booker nominees as possible, but usually have to race through them as I get my hands on them only shortly before the winner is announced. I'll probably not get very far into the list this year, but I'm glad I started with this book.

Hamid transports us to an unnamed city somewhere in the Arab World. We watch young love burgeoning between shy and unassuming Saeed and paradoxical Nadia as their city comes under attack from unknown powers. While they explore their new relationship, the powers-that-be begin their assault on its people. Life becomes dangerous, and before the two know it, their world has crumbled and all they have left is each other.

When they chance upon an unusual escape route - doors that can transport you to other countries - they take the opportunity to get out. But life away from the city of their birth is full of unknown promises and dangers. What becomes of these two lovers in a world that will not acknowledge them but can't get rid of them either?

Hamid's visual storytelling is gripping and intense. Despite relaying the ugly truths of the state of many Arab World countries at the hands of foreign and native powers, the book never dips into preachy sermonising or angry rhetoric. He paints a terrifying picture of the deteriorating city Saeed and Nadia must navigate through every day; and he paints an equally terrifying picture of their lives as refugees in three different countries.

The fantastical elements of the book are downplayed and this, I feel, is the real beauty of this book. It is imbued with a sense of hope; an escapist fantasy element that far too many people would love to be true. Unfortunately, most of the people wishing for these portals will not be the ones reading this book, but the rest of us can now be burdened with the pain our fellow humans must live with on a daily basis.

Hamid's minimalist writing ensures a captivated audience and a captivating book. I especially enjoyed his attempts at subverting the Western view of Muslim people, most importantly of Muslim women. No two people are alike, and irrespective of religion, people can have similar and dissimilar likes and dislikes. No one is written as all good or all bad. The tempered outlook of this book is astonishing, and it, in itself, subverts the image of Arab World to a great extent.

I find it fascinating that Hamid was able to write the character of Nadia without reverting to the regular tropes of most literature and media. Nadia is a fascinating character, one unlike other female characters I've read in most literature, especially literature based in the East. Other writers need to take note of how active Nadia is - generally, I find, writers of all genders fall into the trap of writing passive and reactive female characters.

Hamid also steers clear of penning contrived and overwrought emotional sequences. Good, bad or ugly, the scenes play out fast, moving the plot forward, while weaving in the emotional impact of the circumstances into the actions and feelings of the characters in succeeding scenes.

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book, but what Hamid does is write a story that winds its way into your heart and buries itself in your memories. You don't want to forget this book or its characters, ever.
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Reading Progress

August 14, 2017 – Started Reading
August 15, 2017 – Shelved
August 15, 2017 – Finished Reading

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