Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Excuse me reader, but can I be of assistance?  I can't help but notice that you have arrived at my blog once again.  Perhaps you are in the mood for another book review?  Ah, yes, then that it what we shall do.  Oh, you are curious as to what we will be discussing?  Today we will be reviewing The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

It follows a young man named Changez who lives in the city of Lahore, Pakistan.  He recounts his story of going to America to go to college and seek employment.  He falls in love with a beautiful woman named Erica and he lands a great job as an analyst at a major counseling firm.  All goes well, but then 9/11 happens.  From then on Changez constantly reexamines America, it's interactions with the world and even himself. 

You are concerned that this might not sound that interesting?  Forgive me, its one of those books that is tricky to summarize, but I can assure you that it is an excellent book.  Why am I writing the review as I am?  You see, the book is told as a conversation that Changez has with a nervous American in Lahore.  I quite liked this twist on the style of first person narration, and it really does show Mohsin Hamid's command of the English Language.  

I really enjoyed gaining a greater understanding of the peoples and culture of Pakistan, especially that of the city of Lahore.  It was also quite good to find out more about the 2001 standoff between Pakistan and India.  Oh, you have not heard of it?  I would not think so, it is not that well known here in the West.  This is certainly a book of literary fiction, but it does have a few dashes of nerd and geek culture that should help sustain those not normally into literary fiction.  For example, one of Changez's first assignments is to evaluate a fictional company that has created a teleportation device, and his girlfriend Erica is very into European comics.  

A bit of advice, you might not want to read/listen to this book if you're feeling hungry.  Changez and his American guest have quite the meal that is described with many caring details.  This goes especially if you enjoy Indian food, as Pakistan was once part of India.  It was also interesting how this novel depicted 9/11 from an non-American and non-Western perspective.  You are concerned that this novel will make you sympathize with terrorists?  Fear not, Changez is not that sort of man.  That being said, fundamentalism comes in more forms than just religious.  For example, Changez notes that he and his boss are very much economic fundamentalists, and he notes that, following 9/11, America takes on a very fundamentalist tone to its nationalism.

As he says, before 9/11 being in New York was like, well, being in New York; a big cosmopolitan city with many different cultures and people's living side-by-side.  After 9/11, however, living in New York was like living in America, and all that that entails.  Also, for those wondering, the name Changez is a variant on the name Genghis.  It's very much a book about what the immigrant dream means in our modern world, as well as the intersection between American and other nations.    

You are wonder if there is an audiobook version?  Why reader, I thought you'd never ask.  The answer is yes, it is narrated by Satya Bhabha, and it is quite excellent.  Satya really nails it with his performance of Changez's lemony narration style.  There was also a movie adaptation that premiered at the 2012 Vince Film Festival.  I have not seen it, and so I cannot speak of its quality.  The book was a finalist for the 2007 Booker Award, and it won the Anisfield-Wolf Award.  Quite a few universities have begun teaching this book in their courses.  All of this recognition and praise is more than deserved on Mohsin Hamid's part.  

And so we have reached the end of our review.  As you can see I enjoyed this book very much.  Ah, I see you are reaching into your pocket, which I assume is for your wallet so that you can buy a copy of this book?  

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