Kamila Shamsie: Burnt Shadows


The latest addition to my website is Kamila Shamsie‘s Burnt Shadows. This is a story about allegiances (and lack thereof) and identity. All of the main characters struggle with who they are. The main character is Hiroko, a Japanese woman whose father is deemed to be a traitor, who is engaged to a German and who is in Nagasaki when the atom bomb is dropped. She ends up marrying a Pakistani and living in Karachi. Her husband is born an Indian and lives in and loves Delhi but has to become a Pakistani. Their son speaks many languages and seems more sympathetic to the Afghans than to any other nationality. Their friends in India are British (him) and German (her) whose son considers himself Indian, hates England and works for the CIA. Shamsie moves through key historical events – the atom bomb on Nagasaki, the independence and partition of India, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and 9/11 as a background – and her characters move round the world, unsure of where exactly they belong. This is both the strength and weakness of the his novel as her point is a key one for the present day but, at the same time, the novel tends at time to lose focus. Shamsie was one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists.

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