Monday, 29 April 2013

Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

People have been recommending Mohsin Hamid's work from all sides, so when I saw this in the library I thought I'd pick it up*. Let's just say the recommendations were wholly deserved - I really enjoyed this book.

* As an aside I have very conflicting views on libraries so hopefully I'll do a discussion post on that in the near future (along with all the other posts I've promised, sorry!).

1) It's premise really intrigued me - being addressed directly and so specifically was really interesting. This was particularly fascinating as I found I really did not like the person who was being addressed - and the uncomfortable situation this puts the reader is in just <emotivearmmovements> good. Really good.

2) The narrator is very eloquent yet very bare at the same time, which created just stunning reading. The book is written as a very one-sided conversation, and it really felt like you were sitting down listening to someone tell you about their life. This could be boring, but when the narrator has lived such a rich life it's very interesting.
3) It's surprisingly tension filled - the moment at the end (which I shall not reveal) may not be entirely shocking (due to the hints laid down in the novel) but is very very well executed.
4) I read it in two chunks (the first 3/4 in one sitting, and the last 1/4 this morning) but because of the style of the book I'd really recommend trying to read it in one sitting. It's only 200 pages long, so it really doesn't take that long to get though if you can set aside a couple of hours.

5) It picked up some very interesting points about how we (or specifically how Americans - although it applied to most Western nations) judge people based on appearance. And how (again Americans, but us Brits do it too) completely misinterpret situations when the issue of terrorism is brought up.

6) The love story in this raised some very interesting questions about what rape is and what an abusive relationship is. If you don't mind a spoiler I'm going to put a little discussion at the very end of the post, so don't scroll down if you don't want to know.

Yeah. So, I think that pretty much sums my feelings on this book up. Highly recommend it. I gave it four sunbeams.

Happy Reading!


---------------------------- SPOILER ZONE ----------------------

There is a moment in this book where the narrator has sex with the girl he is in love with. She appears to have feeling for him too, but is definitely not an active participant in the intercourse. When the narrator realises that she isn't getting involved, he, albeit begrudgingly, stops. I found this very uncomfortable to read, as to me, this was clearly a rape. She did not want to have sex with him. However, as you see everything through the narrator's eyes, it became very muddled in my mind. There is a second sex scene, which to my mind is also rape, although the girl is an active participant. The narrator abuses her mental fragility in order to get what he wants. Which, as I've said, constitutes rape, or at the very least an abusive relationship. Once again, because we see everything through the narrator's eyes, we can see that he wants to make her happy. However, we can also see how much he is manipulating his own thoughts. His rationale may be her happiness, but his motive is very much his own fulfilment.

I just found this interesting. If you want to contribute to this discussion (particularly if you’ve read the book) please leave a comment!

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