Kamila Shamsie/Fiction Historical
[★-lost me ★★-average ★★★-worth a read ★★★★-excellent ★★★★★-amazing]
Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the US in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.
Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad’s half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.
With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history–personal and political–are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel’s astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
What was there in this book which got it shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009? It is an absolute masterpiece, that’s what. The characters are beautifully crafted, it is slow paced, and is simultaneously an easy read and which makes you sit up and question life. The story spans 2 families across 3 generations, all of them brought together by fate. It manages to spin a tale featuring major events in history from 1945 to 2002; World War II, nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, British Raj(rule) in India, creation of Pakistan and Partition, Pakistan’s nuclear tests, Soviet rule in Afghanistan, Talibans and 9/11.Whoa. Reading the book, it is obvious that the author, Kamila Shamsie, has done extensive research and has deep understanding on all these events. The book shows the power of love, and how history casts its shadow on everyone. It teaches us that love, loyalty, protection and shelter transcends all borders. It tells us that new beginnings and second chances are our choices, but life goes on. In the prologue, the narrator asks ‘How did it come to this?’ The subsequent story tells us exactly how, and it’s not all fun and games. Burnt Shadows features animals in all its turning points; 3 storks burnt on Hiroko’s skin by the atomic bomb, the Weiss-Burtons and the Tanaka-Ashrafs being each other’s spiders, Raza being smuggled to Canada inside a toy gorilla. I could also relate to Hiroko and Tanaka’s love and easy acquisition of languages. The last two chapters were so profound that I had to write them down. I’m only disappointed that the India-Pakistan War of 1965 was not mentioned, but that’s hardly a point, with so many other vents mentioned. If you want a book with a happy ending, this is not for you. Real life has no happy endings. But if you want a powerful and moving and amazing book, please read this. You won’t live to regret it.
Sorry I posted after a long time, my grandmother passed away and I was busy with all of that stuff.