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Noon by Aatish Taseer
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This book is more a collection of short stories than a novel, showing as it does distinct episodes in the life of Rehan Tabassum set several years apart. Written sometimes in the first-person and sometimes in the third, we see Rehan first as a young man on his way to meet his father who abandoned his mother when Rehan was too young to remember him. The following four chapters focus on incidents in Rehan’s life from when he was a child until the present when he is a young man.

Rehan’s life, as a young man with an Indian mother, an absent father in Pakistan and a western education, seems to mirror the author’s own life and the book comes over as autobiographical in style. The various stories provide glimpses into the divisions in society in both India and Pakistan, the contrasts between the wealth and power of the new industrialists and the simultaneous fading of the old privileged classes, the casual corruption and cruelty that seem to be part of everyday life and the rise of the more militant form of Islamism. Without in any way dwelling on terrorism, the author makes reference to it and highlights the growing hatred of western values and the colonial legacy, embodied often by the use of the English language amongst the elite.

The tone of the book was quite pessimistic about the societies of both India and Pakistan. The role of women came across as very minor and subordinate – both of Rehan’s father figures had left wives for younger women and after Rehan’s childhood years the women were barely mentioned. The scenes of mild torture casually employed by the police, the continuing class and caste divides, the contrasts of extreme poverty and extreme wealth, the street riots – I was left wanting to see some of the positives that surely must exist to counterbalance these negative images.

Overall, however, I found the author to be a very effective and compelling storyteller. While I didn’t feel the book held quite together as a novel, I found each chapter to be a fully formed story in its own right. There were many cultural and religious references in the book that I didn’t get and the author didn’t explain (why should he?) but I didn’t find this marred my understanding or enjoyment of the book. I will certainly look out for more from this author in the future.

I got the opportunity to read and review this book through the Amazon Vine programme. ( )
  AmazonFictionFan | Jul 9, 2011 |
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Experiencing a privileged upbringing in Delhi, Rehan, the son of a lawyer mother and industrialist stepfather, struggles with the absence of his Pakistani Muslim father against a backdrop of the city's economic boom and bust and a formidable Pakistan earthquake.… (more)

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