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When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud--a fellow architect--is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud--a fellow architect--is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people's secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric's daughter and Nargis's Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart.


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When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud--a fellow architect--is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud--a fellow architect--is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people's secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric's daughter and Nargis's Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart.

30 review for The Golden Legend

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    [It may be some time before I have the bandwidth to write proper reviews. Penning this one would be my first priority, when time permits.] Until then: I would give it ten stars if I could. I will press it into the hands of both friends and strangers, in what, no doubt, will eventually cause deserved eye-rolls. It will stay in my heart and mind for a long, long time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    I have been following Nadeem Aslam since 2005, when I read his brilliant second novel Maps for Lost Lovers, which told a brutal story of a so-called honour killing in an English Muslim community, in luminously poetic language. That book took him ten years to write and is among my favourites. Both of his subsequent novels addressed the wars in Afghanistan, again with a poetic brutality, so it is no surprise that this one covers similar ground, though this one is entirely set in Pakistan, apart fro I have been following Nadeem Aslam since 2005, when I read his brilliant second novel Maps for Lost Lovers, which told a brutal story of a so-called honour killing in an English Muslim community, in luminously poetic language. That book took him ten years to write and is among my favourites. Both of his subsequent novels addressed the wars in Afghanistan, again with a poetic brutality, so it is no surprise that this one covers similar ground, though this one is entirely set in Pakistan, apart from the back story of a character from Kashmir. There is no outright war this time but there is plenty of violence, as Aslam attempts to explain the conflicts, corruption and misunderstandings that make life there so precarious. Throughout this book Aslam stresses the diversity of Pakistani society, both within the Muslim community and in the minority Christian community. Against this background he weaves a rather beautiful personal story - a paean to courage, integrity, resilience and tolerance against overwhelming odds. The book is full of arresting visual imagery and steeped in Eastern storytelling traditions. I wrote this review on the phone, while half-watching the France-Belgium game - it could do with a rewrite but I don't have time for that now

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ace

    This story depicts in detail the violence in current day Pakistan. It is beautifully told but hard to read. It must be so hard to remain patriotic in some countries when madness seems to have taken hold of your political and religious leadership. Enough said.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William Koon

    I discovered Nadeem Aslam many years ago. He is totally delightful as a writer. He never disappoints with his intelligent and thoughtful themes. His Map for Lost Lovers remains one of my favorite novels of this century. In The Golden Legend, he returns to his native contemporary Pakistan and writes a horror story. Basically his characters are Christians in a Muslim society. The Christians are very persecuted. But then even moderate Muslims are persecuted. The nation is a living picture of dystop I discovered Nadeem Aslam many years ago. He is totally delightful as a writer. He never disappoints with his intelligent and thoughtful themes. His Map for Lost Lovers remains one of my favorite novels of this century. In The Golden Legend, he returns to his native contemporary Pakistan and writes a horror story. Basically his characters are Christians in a Muslim society. The Christians are very persecuted. But then even moderate Muslims are persecuted. The nation is a living picture of dystopia. But people live in a dystopia and Alsam does a wonderful portrayal of the women, who are essentially outsiders in their own culture. There is Nardis, a talented architect. Aysha, a widow of a “martyr” who must forever remain a widow to honor her husband’s death. Helen who is the daughter of a Christian rickshaw driver, educated and could be something, if she were not Christian and a woman shines. After a set-up of Nardis’s husband being assassinated and the introduction of a love affair between Lily and Aysha, the wheels get to turning. The central part of the novel is the idyll of Nardis, Helen, and Imran, who is a renegade Kasmir rebel without a cause. They escape to an island paradise, but of course there is no escaping the corruption, the bombings, the humiliations, the assurance of theocratic rightness. In the midst of all of this ugliness and perversity, Aslam writes some beautiful nature passages, and we become aware of what natural beauty could exist if it were not for the politics and religious passions of men. The symbolism is oft-times heavy handed, as in the reconstruction of the book by the father of Masud, Nardis’ murdered husband. Carefully she tries to repair the work after it has been violated by an American intelligence figure. There are also famous buildings reconstructed and buildings made of paper. And books with poetic worm holes. No one said it was perfect. I am still unsure about the last part of the novel. I firmly believe that no one should write magical realism unless your name is Garcia Marquez. Still, the work is a near masterpiece, missing the mark enough to make the reader wish that the lines were drawn a bit wider, the field a bit longer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I’ve greatly admired Nadeem Aslam’s writing since I read his 2004 novel “Maps for Lost Lovers” which focused on an immigrant Pakistani community in the north of England. There is something so striking about his use of imagery which conveys the feelings of his characters and expresses the ideas which they are wrestling with. His novels are intricate, layered with diverse references and wrestle with pressing political dilemmas, but at the heart of his writing are compelling dramatic stories of ind I’ve greatly admired Nadeem Aslam’s writing since I read his 2004 novel “Maps for Lost Lovers” which focused on an immigrant Pakistani community in the north of England. There is something so striking about his use of imagery which conveys the feelings of his characters and expresses the ideas which they are wrestling with. His novels are intricate, layered with diverse references and wrestle with pressing political dilemmas, but at the heart of his writing are compelling dramatic stories of individuals simply trying to live and love each other in challenging circumstances. It feels like his new novel “The Golden Legend” is his most violent and heartrending yet. It’s set in Pakistan and concerns several individuals caught in the middle of a fraught religious struggle. An architect named Nargis hides a dangerous secret which she must reckon with when her Christian friends Helen and her father Lily find themselves embroiled in a serious conflict with the strict Muslims of the community. Together with a young ex-militant man named Imran from Kashmir, they escape to a forgotten place of refuge – inevitably they are unable to remain hidden from the larger world forever. Read my full review of The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam on LonesomeReader

  6. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    The book cover says the author uses "luminous prose". Totally correct. Modern day Pakistan is hard to work out and this book does a frightening good job in depicting the corruption, various Islamic factions killing each other, the impact of the US drone strikes and support of the government, intimidation of citizens, the dangers of being in a minority and the disappearance of critics. One of the characters comes from Kashmir and the Indian government's actions against it's Muslim citizens is also The book cover says the author uses "luminous prose". Totally correct. Modern day Pakistan is hard to work out and this book does a frightening good job in depicting the corruption, various Islamic factions killing each other, the impact of the US drone strikes and support of the government, intimidation of citizens, the dangers of being in a minority and the disappearance of critics. One of the characters comes from Kashmir and the Indian government's actions against it's Muslim citizens is also shamed. It's a brutal portrayal of a country, full of sadness with the fate of the main characters masked by doom from the start.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Saloni

    We live in a difficult world and it is up to writers and artists to make it worth living in, even while engaging with the worst it has to offer. Aslam's latest is almost morbid in the way it connects to the unreal everyday of life in Pakistan and in neighbouring Kashmir. It is brutal. It is difficult to read. It is impossible to ignore. And yet, as he often does, the text makes you want to believe in the possibility of hope and redemption and love. This isn't a pretty book. It does have a pretty We live in a difficult world and it is up to writers and artists to make it worth living in, even while engaging with the worst it has to offer. Aslam's latest is almost morbid in the way it connects to the unreal everyday of life in Pakistan and in neighbouring Kashmir. It is brutal. It is difficult to read. It is impossible to ignore. And yet, as he often does, the text makes you want to believe in the possibility of hope and redemption and love. This isn't a pretty book. It does have a pretty book in it, though. Do read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stasha

    I found that the Golden Legend tried to touch on many themes and make many points in a delicately poetic style of writing, too many perhaps to remain coherent. I kept thinking about the quote on the cover page that said "There is no greater denier of God than he who accepts injustice instead of rebelling." That was perhaps the "golden" thread that tied the narrative together. Despite and in spite of odds its characters face in a place where uncertainty and violence is part of a daily life, each I found that the Golden Legend tried to touch on many themes and make many points in a delicately poetic style of writing, too many perhaps to remain coherent. I kept thinking about the quote on the cover page that said "There is no greater denier of God than he who accepts injustice instead of rebelling." That was perhaps the "golden" thread that tied the narrative together. Despite and in spite of odds its characters face in a place where uncertainty and violence is part of a daily life, each of these characters rebel in their own way against conditions imposed on them by fact of birth or circumstance. "The believer in the mosque is like a fish in the water. The hypocrite in the mosque is like a bird in a cage." Lily and Aysha deny the world to cage them into their separate existances within their communities in which they were born. Helen and Moscow rebel against the world full of violence and prejudice they were handed down by their parents and grandparents. Nargis finally came out of the cage she imposed on herself by pretending to be someone she was not and lead a life worthy of her capabilties. Bishop Solomon, whom we learn about early on but do not get to know until almost the end of the book, leaves a strong message for the reader. "It was the idea that man was a brother to man. ..I love you not because you are my neighbour but because you are my brother..I love you not because you offer me guidance and food but because you are my brother..." . Question remains why our past and our present do not reflect this knowledge but instead try to prove it wrong.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I don't feel capable of writing a brief summary of this book as it is a book that profoundly encompasses the entirety of man's historical attempts to worship within cultural and political confines, but more specifically within this story, under a Muslim regime. The main characters are defined with such a refined level of compassion and understanding for all societal levels as well as genders, that their life events can easily pierce the soul of the reader. I am deeply moved. This book covers very I don't feel capable of writing a brief summary of this book as it is a book that profoundly encompasses the entirety of man's historical attempts to worship within cultural and political confines, but more specifically within this story, under a Muslim regime. The main characters are defined with such a refined level of compassion and understanding for all societal levels as well as genders, that their life events can easily pierce the soul of the reader. I am deeply moved. This book covers very difficult topics including difficulties experienced by Christians in a Muslim state, suicide bombers, police cruelty, torture, rape, murder, theft. It also covers the beauty of books, kindness in the face of threat, love when forbidden and family ties that cannot be cut asunder.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    To say this is a timely read is an understatement. The capacity for violence and hate in humans and to use that hatred and violence in the name of religion, any religion, is terribly sad making. A sad and melancholic ending.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    "The mass graves of Kashmiris, who had been killed and buried in secret by Indian soldiers, were beginning to be discovered by then, and thousands of young men were missing - either murdered, or crossing the border into Pakistan for guerilla training. The grandfather began to advise everyone to carry bulbs and seeds in their pockets, and to inform their family and friends what specific plants each was carrying upon their person, in order that they would know what flowers to look for after the In "The mass graves of Kashmiris, who had been killed and buried in secret by Indian soldiers, were beginning to be discovered by then, and thousands of young men were missing - either murdered, or crossing the border into Pakistan for guerilla training. The grandfather began to advise everyone to carry bulbs and seeds in their pockets, and to inform their family and friends what specific plants each was carrying upon their person, in order that they would know what flowers to look for after the Indian soldiers had tortured them to death."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Reader Variety

    Tremendous read and one of the best novels (though I also marked it as historical fiction as there were enough parts - like the interweaving of the American "diplomat" taken into custody in Pakistan - to give the story some historical backdrop) of the year. Not only was the story compelling, but Aslam is able to bring out the nuance in multiple characters, and also delve deeply enough into the Kashmir question, and the impact of the situation in Afghanistan on Pakistan domestically, and examine t Tremendous read and one of the best novels (though I also marked it as historical fiction as there were enough parts - like the interweaving of the American "diplomat" taken into custody in Pakistan - to give the story some historical backdrop) of the year. Not only was the story compelling, but Aslam is able to bring out the nuance in multiple characters, and also delve deeply enough into the Kashmir question, and the impact of the situation in Afghanistan on Pakistan domestically, and examine the treatment of religious minorities etc. That is a lot of character development and issue examination in one book, so well done. Some interesting segments: Helen after the death of her mother, Grace: "She knew she would never really recover. It was as though her pen ran out of ink while writing a letter. She had picked up another containing ink of a different colour and continued; but even if the words and the lines of thought remained the same, something had altered." The brother of a main character, a writer who was killed for his writing, would write in all of his notebooks, "War will drown in the writer's inkwell." On the failures of Pakistan: "And she felt a sense of shame, something akin to accusation from them towards her and her generation, for not having constructed a better world to welcome and contain their beauty, to house their spirit." On the general idea of the different religions, races, ethnicities and people becoming one: "That was how one continent poured itself into another. How one person carried the answer through his life until he met the person who was carrying the question."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    In shimmering and exquisite prose the author rails against the various forms of religious bigotry and hatred in a dystopian Pakistan: a wife, Nargis,and her Muslim husband, Masood, who are architects where Nargis lives a lie--a Christian taking on a Muslim identity; a young Christian girl, Helen, they consider their protégé; her widowed father, Lily, in love with a Muslim cleric's daughter and she him; the love between Helen and a young Kashmiri, Imran, a former guerrilla fighter. His ideals hav In shimmering and exquisite prose the author rails against the various forms of religious bigotry and hatred in a dystopian Pakistan: a wife, Nargis,and her Muslim husband, Masood, who are architects where Nargis lives a lie--a Christian taking on a Muslim identity; a young Christian girl, Helen, they consider their protégé; her widowed father, Lily, in love with a Muslim cleric's daughter and she him; the love between Helen and a young Kashmiri, Imran, a former guerrilla fighter. His ideals have been betrayed by the training camp but not lost completely. Absolutely unforgettable story and characters! Although not completely clear towards its finale, the story ends on a note of optimism. A book written by Masood's father, telling of how all cultures have borrowed from each other and from that we can assume that all men are at base, brothers, figures strongly in the novel. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Watts

    This novel is a stunning work. It tells a story both wide, and spread over centuries, and very intimate. That Aslam manages to step across that gulf so easily, and so frequently, is an incredible achievement. The book that Massud is holding when he is shot was authored by his own father. It is a book of the commonalities of humanity, the lore, the fables and, yes, the religious beliefs, that are interchanged between nationalities, cultures and faiths. And this book, destroyed and painstakingly s This novel is a stunning work. It tells a story both wide, and spread over centuries, and very intimate. That Aslam manages to step across that gulf so easily, and so frequently, is an incredible achievement. The book that Massud is holding when he is shot was authored by his own father. It is a book of the commonalities of humanity, the lore, the fables and, yes, the religious beliefs, that are interchanged between nationalities, cultures and faiths. And this book, destroyed and painstakingly stitched back together with gold thread, offers Aslam the focal point that makes his story both very specific and universal. The sense of place is breathtaking, the prose is beautiful and heartbreaking. Full review here: http://leatherboundpounds.com/2017/01...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    (4.5) Beautiful, riveting, and almost unbearable. I kept skimming ahead, anxious about what would happen to much loved characters. I wouldn't say that art makes sense of suffering. But it does engage the reader's compassion, our ability to imaginatively feel with others. Aslam does the kind of storytelling that builds compassion and hopefully, eventually, peace. I loved the central symbol of kintsugi, mending rifts with golden threads. (4.5) Beautiful, riveting, and almost unbearable. I kept skimming ahead, anxious about what would happen to much loved characters. I wouldn't say that art makes sense of suffering. But it does engage the reader's compassion, our ability to imaginatively feel with others. Aslam does the kind of storytelling that builds compassion and hopefully, eventually, peace. I loved the central symbol of kintsugi, mending rifts with golden threads.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This book was so beautifully written, sometimes I would stop in awe and read phrases over and over, just to soak up the imagery, the felicitous perfect choice of words. Learned a lot about Pakistan, Kashmir. Highly recommend.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    A lot of sadness and tragedy. Some impressively intricate storytelling. But I was not made to care about anyone or anything beyond what I would reading sad, tragic news articles. A novel must pull more of me in. Bailed just under halfway through.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Renita D'Silva

    Hard hitting and thought provoking

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    4.5 stars. Aslam portrays the horror of extremism in modern Pakistan, where not only the Christian minority is persecuted, but moderate Muslims too, and in neighbouring Kashmir Muslims are on the receiving end of violence and torture. Persecution is extreme: beheadings, whippings, stonings. Americans (and allies) meanwhile can drone bomb and assassinate and get away with it. Within this setting love, particularly any love that crosses religious boundaries is almost impossible, but this is the fo 4.5 stars. Aslam portrays the horror of extremism in modern Pakistan, where not only the Christian minority is persecuted, but moderate Muslims too, and in neighbouring Kashmir Muslims are on the receiving end of violence and torture. Persecution is extreme: beheadings, whippings, stonings. Americans (and allies) meanwhile can drone bomb and assassinate and get away with it. Within this setting love, particularly any love that crosses religious boundaries is almost impossible, but this is the force behind the characters richly portrayed here, on the run, willing to sacrifice themselves to save others, to have one more day together. Art - in particular architecture - is a saving grace too, beauty is revered and protected as much as possible in the context of so much savagery. E.g. The pages of an aesthetically valuable book portraying the cross fertilisation of cultures is slashed by soldiers and lovingly sewed back together by each of the characters. Sounds a bit heavy on the symbolism? It is. There are also great gobbets of history chucked in which in a lesser book would have sunk it. Not this one, this is a must read for any interested in the region (and who can't be today?) and how the conflicts must be resolved and extremism overcome in order for not only love, but the enrichments of culture and day to day life to thrive again. A plea and a testament from a great writer.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    If all religions were practiced in the manner, of say, Jimmy Carter or the Dali Llama I would have no problems with them and would actually admire them but they are not. As far as I can tell, most sharply deviate from this standard and become more and more abhorrent. They start becoming an excuse for many to practice bigotry and discrimination or, in other cases, as with the prosperity gospel, become a way to con the gullible into financing mansions and jets. From this point they continue on int If all religions were practiced in the manner, of say, Jimmy Carter or the Dali Llama I would have no problems with them and would actually admire them but they are not. As far as I can tell, most sharply deviate from this standard and become more and more abhorrent. They start becoming an excuse for many to practice bigotry and discrimination or, in other cases, as with the prosperity gospel, become a way to con the gullible into financing mansions and jets. From this point they continue on into hatred and eventually violence. That's where this book comes in. Aslam focuses on primarily the corruption and murderous conduct of much of Islam as practiced in Pakistan. Although this is his primary focus he also illustrates similar conduct by the Christians and Hindus when they are given the chance. The book is beautifully written by Aslam in his sparse prose which works well with the subject matter. The story is about a woman who is Christian but when in college began passing as Muslim and continued with this pretense on into her later life which eventually led to dire consequences. A very suspenseful and disturbing read but enjoyable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chavelli Sulikowska

    It starts with a death. It is clear from the beginning that this novel will literally rasp on the nerves until the end. How cruel the world can be. An incredibly well crafted novel that similar to Aslam's earlier novels (which I am yet to indulge in) that clearly depicts the irrational, depraved and ultimately frightening state of today's world - a schism of sectarian violence and uncertainty. The reader is literally thrown into the story, taking part in the chaos, tragedy and exposed to the hig It starts with a death. It is clear from the beginning that this novel will literally rasp on the nerves until the end. How cruel the world can be. An incredibly well crafted novel that similar to Aslam's earlier novels (which I am yet to indulge in) that clearly depicts the irrational, depraved and ultimately frightening state of today's world - a schism of sectarian violence and uncertainty. The reader is literally thrown into the story, taking part in the chaos, tragedy and exposed to the high octane fear and incertitude experienced by the very real characters. An exceptionally crafted and all consuming bare to the bone story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sehar Moughal

    A friend recommended this book (literally placing it in my hands) and said, 'I think you'll like it'. Which I did. I also hated it: being a Pakistani it was too close to home. I wish I could say to people that Aslam over exaggerated when writing about the violence in Pakistan but that would be untrue. What did surprise me was the abundance of love nestled within the pages - the kind that reminds you of the life within you - yes I had forgotten all the good things about my home land. A friend recommended this book (literally placing it in my hands) and said, 'I think you'll like it'. Which I did. I also hated it: being a Pakistani it was too close to home. I wish I could say to people that Aslam over exaggerated when writing about the violence in Pakistan but that would be untrue. What did surprise me was the abundance of love nestled within the pages - the kind that reminds you of the life within you - yes I had forgotten all the good things about my home land.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    This is a finely crafted new novel. It probably won't get much attention in the US, but I wish it would. This is a finely crafted new novel. It probably won't get much attention in the US, but I wish it would.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Addi

    I love Maps for Lost Lovers. This one? Not nearly as lyrical as some of his early work, and thus the characters emerge as shallower, blurrier than before. Here, Aslam is showing a certain inability to reconcile his distance from the lifeworld that the characters inhabit. Where his lyricism had sutured over that in earlier books, and that he was intimately familiar with the world of British Muslims, Pakistani characters appear displaced from the possibilities and materialities of life. This in tu I love Maps for Lost Lovers. This one? Not nearly as lyrical as some of his early work, and thus the characters emerge as shallower, blurrier than before. Here, Aslam is showing a certain inability to reconcile his distance from the lifeworld that the characters inhabit. Where his lyricism had sutured over that in earlier books, and that he was intimately familiar with the world of British Muslims, Pakistani characters appear displaced from the possibilities and materialities of life. This in turn takes one out of the book. So the both the mundane and the brutal horrors of life appear as if they are happening to cardboard characters, not real, but ones you must root for because, subaltern. This kind of a book irks me a lot because wittingly or unwittingly it is meaningless in its performance of a weird shallow liberalism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Victor Brand

    I’ve found this author by accident and love his style of story telling. This basis of this book is modern day Pakistan and religious intolerance with candid character subjects and romance thrown in to the melting pot.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    Nothing new to say. From the ground beneath my feet this is a great novel by an extraordinarily talented writer. I don't particularly want to recover from it, but the closure helps. Nothing new to say. From the ground beneath my feet this is a great novel by an extraordinarily talented writer. I don't particularly want to recover from it, but the closure helps.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mubeen Irfan

    One of my office colleagues is an ardent fan of Nadeem Aslam and had pushed me to read his first book 'Maps for lost lovers' which I felt to be mediocre. I was pushed again by the same colleague to read this one highlighting that this is probably his best work yet and that I will change my opinions on Nadeem Aslam post reading this. Sadly, for him, I maintain that Nadeem Aslam is an over-rated writer. This book is a mash-up of different plot lines. Raymond Davis, Pakistani society's attitude towa One of my office colleagues is an ardent fan of Nadeem Aslam and had pushed me to read his first book 'Maps for lost lovers' which I felt to be mediocre. I was pushed again by the same colleague to read this one highlighting that this is probably his best work yet and that I will change my opinions on Nadeem Aslam post reading this. Sadly, for him, I maintain that Nadeem Aslam is an over-rated writer. This book is a mash-up of different plot lines. Raymond Davis, Pakistani society's attitude towards blasphemy and utilizing it to take revenge upon unsuspecting Muslims & non-Muslims and Kashmir jihad, have all been included in this book of 360 odd pages. I felt that it was too much condensed into a single book and dropping one or two plot lines would not have hurt the fluidity of this novel. Nadeem Aslam could probably have done away with a hundred pages too, to remain on the point. A very average read and like the recent Pakistani-English fiction, it portrays a very bleak picture of a regressive Pakistani society where the hope of a change is minimal. In real life, this point remains debatable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ceil

    An amazing book, sustaining its clear voice and layers of powerful messages through the final page. It's a story of Pakistani politics. It's a story of the clash of different religions - and of the rage people act on in the name of their religions - and how acting protects us from reflecting deeply on the many ways in which we are the same. It's really hard to read in a lot of places. But worth it. Read this book. An amazing book, sustaining its clear voice and layers of powerful messages through the final page. It's a story of Pakistani politics. It's a story of the clash of different religions - and of the rage people act on in the name of their religions - and how acting protects us from reflecting deeply on the many ways in which we are the same. It's really hard to read in a lot of places. But worth it. Read this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    A tough but rewarding read about contemporary Pakistan and religious intolerance. Aslam writes beautifully about ugly truths.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Kenvyn

    This is an extraordinary book.   It is extraordinary in so many ways that it is difficult to know where to begin.   So I thought that I would start with the obvious and work forwards from there.   Nadeem Aslam is a master of the craft of writing.   His choice of words is exquisite.   His construction of sentences approaches the immaculate, which is as good as it could ever possibly get.   Like the Ancient Mariner, he knows how to seize the attention of his readers and to make us listen until he This is an extraordinary book.   It is extraordinary in so many ways that it is difficult to know where to begin.   So I thought that I would start with the obvious and work forwards from there.   Nadeem Aslam is a master of the craft of writing.   His choice of words is exquisite.   His construction of sentences approaches the immaculate, which is as good as it could ever possibly get.   Like the Ancient Mariner, he knows how to seize the attention of his readers and to make us listen until he has finished his story.   And what a story this is.   It is spellbinding.   It is riveting.   Whether you emerge sadder or wiser depends on your ability to listen and to understand.   You will not emerge from this tale unmoved. This is an uncomfortable tale.   I imagine that there are many people who will be extremely unhappy with it as it brings things hiding in the shadows into the light.   It begins with Massud and Nargis setting out from their home to join a group of people carrying by hand rare and valuable books along the Grand Trunk Road in Zamana from the old library building to the new.   It begins with a story of renewal and a message of hope.   An American is driving along the same road and two young men on a motorcycle attempted to rob the American at gunpoint.   He opened fire and in the ensuing fight Massud is killed, as are both the robbers.   This is when the story enters the depths of hell. The American claims diplomatic immunity, and the Pakistani military want the families to accept payment in compensation for the deaths in accordance with Sharia law.   But an extremist fundamentalist group want the families to reject compensation so that the American can be executed.   The original leader of this group was killed by a drone attack in Waziristan, and his widow, Aysha, and his son, who lost both his legs in the same attack, have returned to her father, who is the Imam of a mosque in Zamana.   Her brother-in-law and his gang of militants have also come to the mosque.   Aysha has begun a clandestine relationship with Lily, a rickshaw-wallah and a Christian, whose daughter Helen is being taught by Nargis.   There is one further character to introduce and that is Imtiaz.   He is a young man who has fled from the Indian Army in Kashmir to learn how to fight.    He ends up in a training camp outside Zamana, and he runs away from there. It is not my task to tell you how all these stories interlock.   That you must discover for yourself.   The themes of the book however are quite clear.   This is a book about corruption.   There is the corruption of seeking wealth, that allows justice to be bought, that allows people to buy their way out of trouble, where influence is for sale.   There are also the two sides of this corruption process, those who are prepared to be bought and those who are prepared to buy.   But there is a much deeper corruption - that of the soul.  Nadeem Aslam explores the roots of this kind of corruption - anger, hate, humiliation, feelings of powerlessness, persecution and despair.   Nadeem Aslam explores all of this without being judgemental, although I think it is clear for whom ha has sympathy. Aslam's other theme is those redeeming qualities in all human life, hope and love.   They pervade this story.   In many ways, they are the root of it.   As I have said, it is an extraordinary tale.   It manages to be realistic and uplifting at the same time.   Nadeem Aslam is one of the extraordinary writers of our time.   He shows us the world as it is, but insists that there is hope.   His is a voice against despair.   His is a voice of humanity, of hope, of love - and the greatest of these is love.

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