Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

"We are all migrants through time"

Every now and then you pick up a book and are transported to some far away world or location that speaks to the everyday in a way that a more literal, nonfiction treatise might not. Such is the case here. I love Hamid’s writing, it is both bare and beautiful. He really got my attention with The Reluctant Fundamentalist in a far more aggressive fashion. This novel, however, ebbs and flows like the crashing waves of young love, all enveloping to begin with and then petering out into the sands of time. Getting my hands on a copy has been high on my agenda since The Book Club  featured it in April of this year.

The love story begins in an atmosphere of growing violence and terror with escalating civil unrest at times keeping the lovers apart and finally bringing them together. The reader is unsure of the exact location of their home, just the need to escape and that is where things get really interesting. Doors open up to other locations in the world and random cities experience huge influxes of refugees through these magic portals. First Mykonos becomes overwhelmed by mass immigration, culminating in violence that the pair must escape, via the assistance of a young local girl, through another door to a mansion in London. Empty spaces are filled by the needy as the world magically faces the plight of the refugee. On such an epic scale of violence, fear and cultural clash, Saeed and Nadia’s relationship weathers and alters in a profoundly human fashion which reflects the way shared experiences bind you, while growth and maturity often send you in different directions.

It can’t just have been PMT; I actually felt quite teary when I finished this, it was just beautiful. In a world full of terror and violence, it’s reassuring that regardless of where we come from, what we choose to believe in or not, what language we speak or who we vote for, there are some experiences that transcend all of these and on that level we can all understand each other a little better. One can hope at any rate.

5 out of 5 times I’ve opened up a door and thought, “Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

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