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Exit West
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Group Read Archive > Group Fiction Read - Exit West - April 2018 - SPOILERS ALLOWED

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Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
Spoilers are allowed in this thread. Please unselect 'Add to my update feed' so other don't see your comments.

Things to consider:

1. Did you like the book?
2. Did you like or dislike the main characters?
3. Do the characters develop?
4. What did you think of the plot and the ending of the story?
5. Do you have any particular favourite quotes or scenes?
6. Would you read anything else by this author?

Paul (halfmanhalfbook) | 5459 comments Mod
There were lots of things that I liked about this book, the way that Hamid gets us to see from the perspective of an immigrant and refugee, the way that the country is not defined as this is a global problem at the moment and not the fault of any one country and the relationship between Saeed and Nadia and the way is grows in intensity before fading away.

Even though I love science fiction, I wasn't keen on the doors, it didn't fit with the rest of the book; however I see why he did it as the travel from one place to another would have become the story. My review is here:

Elizabeth Arnold | 7 comments The doors didn't bother me, even though I thought they would when I read the blurb. They were such a minor part of the book really that I forgot about them while reading, the themes were so much broader. It was a good way to move the plot along without having to focus on the nitty gritty and hardship of escape.

(Can we talk about the lyrical language? Apparently Hamid reads his book aloud as part of his writing process...And you can really tell. His sentences are like music.)

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Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
I haven't read the book, but I have listened to the Radio 4 adaptation. I have to say, I love Hamid's style of writing and his subject matter in this and other of his books, but the doors bugged me a bit too. As I was listening to it, when the first "jump" happened I couldn't quite figure it out so had to go back and listen again.

The relationship and characters were beautifully portrayed, though I take your point that this mechanism keeps the focus on them, moving things along without the trials and tribulations of what they would have faced. Takes some of the reality away but I suspect that's the point.

Elizabeth - I entirely agree re the lyrical quality of his writing. Although I listened to an adaptation on this occasion, it did have that essence to it and his previous books have felt to me as if I were sitting in the room with him reading, enveloping me with the words. Fascinated to hear that he reads it aloud - wow, that makes so much sense to me!

Paul (halfmanhalfbook) | 5459 comments Mod
He is a beautifully lyrical writer, and that explains why now; thanks Elizabeth

Becky | 161 comments A very quick read and enjoyable enough that I stuck with it and read it in a day. The writing style was good. However, I think the hype was all due to the timely subject matter rather than the book itself.

Not naming their native country seems like a good idea. We can all name a country that has very serious problems right now but keeping the location general will both keep the book relevant as the political situation changes, and reflect the fact that the refugee issue is not limited to the problems in one place.

I thought it started off fairly well showing their experiences in their native country, it came across as a difficult and dangerous place to live, although I’m not sure there was the detail to really show the kind of horrors that we see on the news.

Once they left their homeland I thought the tension and impact were lost.

I could understand the use of the doors as a way of keeping the story on them without having to devote significant parts of the book to their journey. However, a significant part of a refugee’s experience is the journey. I felt the book really trivialised the difficulty, discomfort and danger that refugees face. All they had to do was pay someone some money (which seemed perfectly affordable to them), walk through a door and they were somewhere new. They didn’t want to be there anymore… no problem, just walk through another door, easy.
I love the idea of doors that take you to completely new places; I just don’t think they were appropriate in a story like this.

It also seemed too convenient that when they got to London they arrived in a nice big, empty house where all they had to do was pick a bedroom. Again, it trivialises the reality of being a refugee, arriving in an unfamiliar place not knowing where to go, not having any possessions, being scared and vulnerable.

Overall a quick, enjoyable read about a relationship but not a book about the refugee experience.

If I was very, very cynical I would think that it was short and lacking in detail so that it could be produced quickly and published while the subject was still a hot topic… obviously, I’m much nicer than that.

2.5 stars, rounded up to 3.

Elizabeth Arnold | 7 comments Becky, all your points are valid. But I think Hamid ultimately didn't want to focus on the actual experience and difficulty of a refugee's journey, so much as on the difficulty of being a stranger in a land you don't know, trying to fit in and create a new home. Thinking of this, I'm sure it better reflects his own migration experience, as a professional, and the son of a professional, not the experience of typical refugees escaping a troubled homeland. Again, he just chose a different focus for this story than other immigration stories that I've read or that we've seen on the news.

Keep in mind too that he also wanted to reflect on "migration" as a general concept we all go through, like the migration through time...The woman toward the end who, when she steps out of her house sees the strangeness/foreignness of the land she's always lived in...Which, you know, I feel too when I look at the lives of people in their teens and twenties. :) And you can have the same feeling of dislocation and struggle when you move from one home to another even within your own country...

So in that sense, the book was more universal. It's not what we've come to expect from an immigration book, but I appreciate it for what it's trying to be.

Becky | 161 comments I'm a firm believer that your expectations when going into a book greatly affect your appreciation of it. Some of my best reading experiences have been with books that I had little or no expectation of.

The hype for this book had led me to expect a really good book about the refugee experience. In that respect I was disappointed.

As a book about people displaced and how their relationship changed as they moved around, I enjoyed it.

Maybe I'll reread it one day with different expectations.

message 9: by Joy (new) - rated it 1 star

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments I didn’t like this book at all. I felt a lack of any involvement with the characters and I think this was due to the writing style – the way we were told what the characters were doing and thinking, rather than undergoing experiences with them. I felt remote from them (hardly able to remember their names) – a complete lack of engagement. To me this book seemed like a very detailed synopsis or story-plan, an outline of what the characters did and felt, and now the author needs to use this plan to actually write the story! I was very surprised to read comments that the writing is lyrical as I can’t see this at all - rhythmic in places maybe, but not lyrical.

As regards the doorways, I don’t mind magical realism, but I couldn’t see the point of them; they weren’t used as a way of exploring what would happen if everyone were free to instantly travel anywhere. I felt the doors were a means to avoid the difficult issue of refugee travel, and in my opinion the dreadful obstacles to travel and conditions during travel that refugees experience form part of their emotional state.

Last year I read The Year of the Runaways which deals with the subject of emigration/ immigration in a way that I found sensitive and absorbing.

message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul (halfmanhalfbook) | 5459 comments Mod
That is why I only gave it three stars joy. parts of it i really liked and other parts just left me cold. It is a shame really, because he can be such a great writer

Pamela (bibliohound) | 358 comments I enjoyed the first part of the book most, I thought Hamid captured the gradual way the country falls into civil war very well.

I wasn't as bothered by the doors as some reviewers have been - it seemed valid to concentrate on the experiences of the refugees in the countries they arrive in, and how they find ways of belonging somewhere while keeping a connection to their home country.

I did feel a little remote from Nadia and Saeed, especially once they began drifting apart from each other. I didn't really care what happened to them once they were apart.

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