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In the City by the Sea by Kamila Shamsie

In the City by the Sea

by Kamila Shamsie

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In a mad scramble to read as much Shamsie as I could before reviewing her latest novel I managed to inhale one of her earliest novels. I have to admit, I didn't love it - the writing felt a little whimsical for the subject - a young boy in Karachi witnesses the death of a neighbor shortly before his uncle is put under house arrest. Still, it has many elements that Shamsie continued to use in her novels - smart, verbally sophisticated characters, a solid sense of place, an understanding of history, the bonds of family life and the way politics can infiltrate everything. I am very glad I read this. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Jun 21, 2017 |
The story was a little too all over the place, and the neither the plot nor the characters really drew me into the book. The characters are too witty, always making clever remarks and word jokes, and the whole book just didn't come together for me.
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
Hasan is an ordinary 11 year boy who loves cricket, has an active imagination and is part of a close and supportive family. His mother is an accomplished artist, his father a lawyer, and his uncle Salman is the democratic rival of the President and his repressive military regime.

Hasan and his family, and the rest of the inhabitants of this unnamed Pakistani city, must live with civil strikes and the resultant days off school and work, curfews and political unrest.

Hasan and his best friend and neighbour Zehra are intelligent, observant children and make a charming pair - Hasan is imaginative and Zehra wise beyond her years. Through the eyes of these two we witness the growing political tensions, the house arrest of Salman and his eventual imprisonment for treason. We also see the effect Salman’s imprisonment has on his family, but particularly on Hasan, who adores his uncle.

In The City By The Sea is the debut novel by Kamila Shamsie. Her slightly eccentric minor characters The Oldest Man and The Widow provided plenty of smiles while dispensing their own brand of philosophy on life. The strong, mature child protagonists like those of her later book Kartography are here again. And like Kartography, given the maturity of the observations the main characters make, I find it a little difficult to keep in mind Hasan and Zehra’s age, but this is a beautifully and vividly written book with witty humour and creative imaginings throughout. ( )
  SouthernKiwi | Jun 25, 2011 |
The protagonist of this charming coming-of-age debut novel is 11-year-old Hasan. He is an adored only child, who completes the circle of love at home, where he lives with his vibrant, artistic mother (whom he refers to as Ami) and his intelligent word-loving father, Aba.

The book is set in an unnamed city – probably Karachi – ruled by an oppressive military regime. Besides his adoration of his parents, Hasan also adores his maternal uncle, Salman Mamoo, who is a politician under house-arrest. As the novel progresses, the seemingly interminable (to Hasan) house arrest ends but things become worse; uncle Salman is taken to prison on a charge of treason. This depressing turn of events is a huge disappointment for the close-knit family.

Hasan is an astute boy who is obsessed with finding a way to help his uncle. He also has a great sense of imagination and escapes into his own fantasy world, as a means of coping, when things become unbearable.

Pakistani-born Shamsie is extremely articulate and I really enjoyed the warmth of this family, and the resourceful, mature Hasan. This was a light and enjoyable read.

An excerpt: “There was the laugh. Hasan watched the backward flip of Aba’s head and the dimples in his cheeks like full-stops marking an end to all unpleasantness, and thought, not for the first time, that he would give up all his outward resemblance to Ami and Salman Mamoo if he could only inherit Aba’s laugh. Yes, he would even give up the promise of high cheekbones.”
1 vote akeela | Dec 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0747571643, Paperback)

Hasan is eleven years old. He loves cricket, pomegranates, the night sky, his clever, vibrant artistic mother and his etymologically obsessed lawyer father, and he adores his next-door neighbour Zehra. One early summer morning, while lazing happily on the roof, Hasan watches a young boy flying a yellow kite fall to his death. Soon after, Hasan's idyllic, sheltered family life is shattered when his beloved uncle Salman, a dissenting politician, is arrested and charged with treason. Set in a land ruled by an oppresive military regime, this eloquent, charming and quietly political novel vividly recreates the confusing world of a young boy on the edge of adulthood, and beautifully illustrates the transformative power of the imagination.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:59 -0400)

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