Sunday, 13 October 2013

Book #55 The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Length Of Time In Possession :  1 week

I picked up The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the train station because I needed something for the journey, and at slightly over 200 pages, had half read it in a couple of hours.

Our protagonist is Changez, and in the opening sentences of the novel he offers his assistance as a local to an American tourist in the city of Lahore, Pakistan, when they sit down to dinner in a restaurant, Changez begins to fill in this American on his back story.

At 18 Changez left Pakistan to become a student at the prestigious Princeton upon graduation he gets a job at an elite firm where he is the most successful junior and from there embarks on a relationship with a white American girl. He has wholeheartedly embraced the American Dream, so why does it feel so good when he sees the Twin Towers fall?

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a great idea, and by no means an unlikeable read, however, so much of its construct feels artificial. For a start, its very title practically hands you the plot, and it's not hard to figure out quite early on that his American companion is more than what he seems, and more than that, what he actually is. What feels most artificial is the dialogue itself, a one sided affair that drags on into the night, it's hard to imagine that it would actually take place. I also saw the ending a mile off.   The novel seeks to make a point, but in the end it's not a very complex or nuanced one.

The blurb on the back of the book says the woman he loves betrays him. But she doesn't. At all. Fundamentally she is mentally ill, she genuinely loves Changez, but is convinced she still loves another man who is gone and her problems thwart them.  I think she can be exonerated from any kind of deliberate "betrayal".

Despite these complaints I did actually enjoy this book so it's odd that this review is so critical, I think its because its heart and purpose are in the right place but its execution is fundamentally flawed and lacking in subtlety.

Verdict : 7/10

Destination : Charity Shop

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Roadtrippin76 who doesn't know how to post comments :

    I thought it explores a tricky subject from an alternative point of view enabling greater empathy from those on the other side of the fence. I also thought their ongoing dialogue dragged, particularly in relation to the woman, which struggled to remain relevant, but I found it unputdownable and I hadn't had a novel do that in a while.