The cover copy selected by Random House doesn’t explain the book very well and doesn’t do the story justice. The easy way to explain the book is: It’s 1988 in Pakistan and we are following the stories of two characters: A soldier / air cadet whose roommate goes AWOL and is taken in for questioning, whose father “committed suicide”, and who wants revenge for his father’s murder; and the President, who became president by military coup and was re-elected twice more, who now thinks that he is being plotted against.
Basically we are following these two characters, their stories, their lives, the characters surrounding them, all in a parallel storyline and waiting for their paths to intertwine. There are also a number of minor characters that we are introduced to briefly whose stories conclude later.
Mohammed Hanif does an excellent job of pulling out lots of strings and fastening them together in an intricate design. Not only do you want to find out more about every character, but you can’t wait for them all to collide and conclude. Hanif puts in details that may seem insignificant but later are explained in detail.
He does an excellent job of making 1988 Pakistan understandable to the modern reader, even if you have no knowledge of the current events of those times (Communism). My only complaint is that it seemed very long in about the third quarter — the beginning of the end — and I really just wanted to find out what was going to happen to the characters that had already been introduced.
However, I would definitely recommend this book to a variety of readers — regardless of interests — as it is a generally well-written novel. I would read another book by Mohammed Hanif as he is an excellent writer.
- Bond Street Books Canada
- Interview with Mohammed Hanif
- Website for the Novel
- Audio Excerpt
- Longlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize