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Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
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Burnt Shadows (2009)

by Kamila Shamsie

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7527618,420 (3.98)226
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English (71)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
Wow. Bought this at Powell’s, while I was looking at newest book by this author (Home Fires). I thought the story - Japanese woman who survives the bombing of Nagasaki in WWII and goes to Delhi - sounded different and really interesting.

I almost quit reading this halfway because it seemed so sad. The prologue is about an imprisoned man, and I didn’t want it to be Raza. I didn’t want there to be a sad ending. I read the ending, and it didn’t comfort me that I was wrong - it did look like Raza was imprisoned at the end.

But I loved the characters and I loved the link between the people - James and Elizabeth (who becomes Ilse), Konrad and Hiroko, Sajjad. The children Raza and Harry and Harry’s daughter Kim. All complicated people and the author does a great job telling you just enough so you understand their motivations and thinking without spelling it out too much. Or making them seem too unlikely or fantastical.

It was risky. It was a surprise when Sajjad is killed looking for Raza. And Harry is killed playing cricket - suddenly, they’re no longer part of the story except their legacy.

But at the end it’s also a reckoning. Kim suspects Abdullah and calls the police. Reza takes his place, because he needs to atone for long ago actions. Hiroko calls out Kim on her actions, her thoughtless action that arresting one more Muslim, who seems suspicious, is acceptable. The parallel is the US government killing 75,000 Japanese with the Nagasaki bomb, because it was such a small percent of the war’s casualties.

And now Reza will be framed for Harry’s death. Kim won’t be able to rescue him. But Abdullah gets a second chance, and that is he choice Reza wants.

So, not a happy story. Frightening. But beautiful and beautifully written. Not easy to read but I’m glad I did. ( )
  BeckiMarsh | Aug 25, 2018 |
Incredible. ( )
  hungrylittlebookworm | Mar 27, 2017 |
Really ambitious in a 'bit off more than you can chew' way. But I still liked it alot. The complicated relationship of two families over fifty years and several countries. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Burnt Shadows, by Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie, was nominated for the Orange Prize in 2009. Ambitious in its scope, it is a compelling novel that loses its way at the end.

Capably narrated in this audio book edition by Jane McDowell who only occasionally confuses the multiple accents she has to portray, Burnt Shadows is the story of Hiroko Tanaka, who survives the Nagasaki bomb blast but loses everything she holds dear. This novel vividly portrays the profound bewilderment that people must have felt when they emerged into the devastation and saw nothing of what had been there before. Ostracised by her own people as one of the Hibakusha (explosion-affected people) she moves to Delhi in pre-partition India to visit the family of Konrad Weiss, the German translator she had agreed to marry on the day of bomb blast. Although not really made welcome by James Burton, a British diplomat, Hiroko becomes a semi-permanent guest – and friend to Ilse, his discontented wife. She gets work as a translator, and despite her reserved nature, gradually forms an attachment to Sajjad Ashraf, who works for the Burtons, and teaches her Urdu.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2013/06/02/burnt-shadows-by-kamila-shamsie-narrated-by-... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 15, 2016 |
I loved the images that flowed through this narrative. The twists and turns that the characters experience are moving and heart-breaking. ( )
  jkrnomad | Jul 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
Shamsie delicately builds the momentum of everyday life against the insidiously political situations of our times, arriving at surprisingly plausible plot twists. This is, more than anything else, a tribute to her skills as a writer of sharp, compact narratives that leave the reader enticed and provoked in equal measure.
 
In the novel’s best moments, Hiroko acknowledges the hubris that accompanies the word “home” and occasionally convinces us of “the shameful resilience of the human heart.” Too often, though, we lose her in the web of a half-dozen other personalities who confront their own displacements — the Weiss-Burtons and the Tanaka-Ashrafs — friends whose personalities should overcome their “complicated shared history.” Sadly, for me, they do not.
 
You can pick holes in this three-generational tale of white oppression, but you can't argue with deeply held beliefs. This is what a Pakistani novelist, Kamila Shamsie, believes. It's instructive to read this, on many levels.
 
Shamsie's challenge is to build the architecture through strong characters without letting the burden of history crush the structure. In Hiroko, she has created just such a character. Some of the minor characters aren't always capable of bearing that burden. They remain true to the message Shamsie conveys – of the common humanity of our interwoven lives. But the pace compresses them. Shamsie has squeezed a violent century's universe into a ball, and rolled it forward with an overwhelming question: Why?
 
Any reader anticipating a predictable yarn about the radicalisation of Islamist youth may feel cheated. Far more, I suspect, will feel challenged and enlightened, possibly provoked, and undoubtedly enriched.
added by ablachly | editThe Guardian, Maya Jaggi (Mar 7, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
... a time to recollect every shadow, everything the earth was losing,
a time to think of everything the earth and I had lost, of all that I would lose, of all that I was losing.
AGHA SHAHID ALI, A Nostalgist's Map of America

In past wars only homes burnt, but this time
Don't be surprised if even loneliness iginites.
In past wares only bodies burnt, but this time
Don
't bne surprised if even shadows ignite.
SAHIR LUDHIANVI, Parchaiyaan
Dedication
Fir Aisha Rahman and Deepak Sathe
First words
Once he is in the cell they unshackle him and instruct him to strip. He takes off the grey winter coat with brisk efficiency and then - as they watch, arms folded - his movements slow, fear turning his fingers clumsy on belt buckle, shirt buttons.
They wait until he is completely naked before they gather up his clothes and leave. When he is dressed again, he suspects, he will be wearing an orange jumpsuit.
The cold gleam of the steel bench makes his body shrivel. As long as it's possible, he'll stand.
How did it come to this, he wonders.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312551878, Paperback)

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
An Orange Prize Finalist

Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. Hiroko Tanaka watches her lover from the veranda as he leaves. Sunlight streams across Urakami Valley, and then the world goes white.

In the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, Hiroko leaves Japan in search of new beginnings. From Delhi, amid India's cry for independence from British colonial rule, to New York City in the immediate wake of 9/11, to the novel's astonishing climax in Afghanistan, a violent history casts its shadow the entire world over. Sweeping in its scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, this is a tale of love and war, of three generations, and three world-changing historic events. Burnt Shadows is a story for our time by "a writer of immense ambition and strength. . . . This is an absorbing novel that commands in the reader a powerful emotional and intellectual response" (Salman Rushdie).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Two years after her prospects are shattered by the bombing of Nagasaki, Hiroko Tanaka travels to Delhi in search of new beginnings and arrives in the home of her ex-fiance's half-sister, but she finds her circumstances halted by conflicts in the Middle East that prompt her family's eventual relocation to America.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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