Booklist 2017: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

There’s a reason why this was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize 2007 – it’s a cracking read. It is no small technical feat to write a story in first person whose protagonist you can sympathise with despite holding some offensive views. The way in which Hamid writes positions the reader in the point of view of ‘The American’ who is the listener to Changez, the narrator. It’s not exactly a comfortable position to be placed because as the reader I was never quite sure who is the hunter and who is the hunted. I was always on my toes, turning the pages, wondering what’s going to happen next. The author is able to simultaneously bring together cultural ideologies, global politics and intensely personal experiences into an engaging and thrilling narrative

This book stood out to me because the narrator struggles with his growing resentment at the country he tried to call home. As a man of Pakistani origins he would always be considered a foreigner in the US, pre- and especially post 9/11, and the character is inwardly torn trying to reconcile his feelings with society’s perceptions of who they think he is.

In my own journey of trying to belong in the UK, I could really relate to the identity struggles faced by the main protagonist. I’ve lived in the UK for over a decade now, and I’ve never felt I’ve truly belonged. Having to reapply for a visa every few years is a tangible reminder that I’m on borrowed time. I suppose, like the protagonist, I feel like an outsider for the most part – always a foreigner, despite all my efforts to integrate.

This story stayed with me and it’s one that I will probably read again someday.


News weary eyes

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of “OMG what now?!” kind of reactions to the news. The relentless stream of information would usually be music to my analytical brain but lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with sussing out what is fact from opinion, let alone digest and critically analyse what I’ve just read. I’ve been on a kind of  news diet these last few days and trying to keep offline but at the same time trying to find ways to just get what I need to know to stay informed.

I’m certainly not one to avoid reading / watching the news. I believe it’s important to stay informed. I think what makes me tired and pissed off is when news agencies pass opinion pieces for news rather than just reporting the facts. Also, what is considered “facts” and “truth” are debatable, apparently. I think that’s why I’ve struggled to write a good blog post that’s focussed – there’s just so much going that I don’t even know where to start.

Anyhow, the last two books I read bring to mind issues and events happening in the news so I’ve been reluctant to post them because I’m not sure I’ve articulated my reactions fully. Or maybe the posts feel a bit tired because I’m getting tired. Either way, stick around for some updates later this week!

Booklist 2017 – Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Imagine a world with knights in shining armour, dragons, evil villains and science experiments. It’s a great recipe for a fantastic adventure, and Nimona delivers just that. The writer and illustrator Noelle Stevenson blurs the line between hero and villain in this graphic novel that’s clever, funny and thoroughly engaging. Nimona started out as an online webcomic that the creator decided to publish as a book in 2015.

Without giving away too much, the story starts off in a classic fairytale intro with hero and villain with sidekick – just not in that order. Nimona crashes into the world of “the villain” – the brilliantly named Lord Baluster Blackheart, who I later learn is pitted against his friend-now-nemesis “the hero”, Sir Ambrosious Goldenlion (try saying that three times in a row without reverting to a radio voice). Yes I use inverted commas because all is not what it seems in the world of Nimona.

I will admit I didn’t like the title character Nimona at first. She was annoying in a hyperactive-child-on-coffee kind of way. She’s unpredictable, brash and impulsive. I pitied Blackheart for putting up with her but as the story progressed I learned to really love Nimona in all her insane impetuousness. She’s brave and wants to be part of something that makes her all the more determined to keep trying. Nimona is a weird, yet fitting addition to a world that acts as if it has clearly drawn sides of good and evil. Her existence helps to uncover the hypocrisy of what is considered “good” and “evil” and her energy is one that can’t be contained in such a binary distinction.

I think part of me would like to be more like her, being the stick in the mud that I am to schedules and plans! The story becomes much more complex than I originally gave it credit for, with twists and turns that I didn’t really expect and some proper laugh out loud moments. It’s no wonder it was a National Book Award Finalist (US based) and I can only (vainly) hope for the possibility of a Nimona 2.