So after much thought and debate the other day I decided that out of 'Daphne' by Justine Picardie, 'The White Tiger' by Arvind Adiga, 'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood, 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' by Mohsin Hamid and two Salman Rushdie I would read The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Now my reason was that this was the book I was actually the most reluctant to read out of all of them. Why? In my own head despite a rave review from one of you, I had this book down as being really, really bad. I don’t know who I over heard being less than complimentary about it but their opinion had stuck. The fact that it was short meant that the difficult hurdle would be over and I could get on with reading something else. However I found myself engrossed in a book that definitely isn’t a thriller but makes you turn pages as fast as one.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a post 9/11 book which looks at how such a horrific moment in history has affected us all. The book is told through a conversation that Changez, the narrator, has with an unnamed American stranger he joins for afternoon tea in a Lahore café. He tells the man his whole history, how he fought for scholarship to get into an American College, Princeton in fact, and then becomes a high flyer in a multimillion pound making corporation falling in love with America and an American woman along the way. However after 9/11 everything in Changez’s New York life changes and he is never the same again.
From doing some research on the internet it appears that there is rather a large bout of criticism going on that this is an anti-American book. I wouldn’t describe it so at all. Yes I admit when Changez admits to his dinner companion that he ‘smiled’ when the World Trade Centre crumbled I almost put the book down in disgust but I am glad I carried on. What Hamid does with this book is look at how relations rapidly declined between America and Muslim countries. He also looks at how some Muslim people were treated by the city of New York and its people after 9/11 regardless of where they came from be it Pakistan or Philadelphia but instead on their Muslim looks, people were spat at, avoided and segregated. It also talks of how for Changez a man who is totally ‘an American’ in his head from his college days and living in New York becomes torn between what his current homeland is doing to his original homeland and its neighbours with the air strikes.
This truly is an incredibly clever novel and really makes you think. You need to go into it completely open minded and be prepared to look at things from all angles and that in itself with this particular topic is quite difficult, but then reading should challenge you and take you into the minds of people you wouldn’t normally. I am wondering if that’s why this book through writing style and getting into complex characters heads strangely reminded me of American Psycho, which though I doubt I will ever read again is a masterpiece. If I had any complaint with the book it would be the love story between Changez and Erica. I think Hamid slightly over dramatised and sensationalised that part of the book when he didn’t really need to. I thought the ‘open’ ending of the book was brilliant though, again it will make you think.
I am really pleased that I gave this book a go despite my reluctance I found it challenging thought provoking and also incredibly readable. I was quite reluctant to finish it… ok, have I used the word reluctant in conjuncture with this book enough now? I would seriously recommend this and again goes to prove that the long listed and short listed Man Booker nominated books are definitely worth reading even if some of the actual winners aren’t. More on that next week when I get round to reading The White Tiger. Hope your all having a lovely extended weekend so far? Reading much?