Review: Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

34518348My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Date read: 09 August 2017

Published by Random House Penguin/ Riverhead, 2017

Verdict: Prose so brilliant I would read his shopping list.

Find it on Goodreads.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

This was beautiful, stunning, memorable, and really special; an anti-war and pro-tolerance piece with a human heart. Mohsin Hamid never loses sight of the important factors of his story: his characters and their interactions; he doesn’t stray from the emotional heart of this story to make a point; and he writes with a precision and beauty that is absolutely breath-taking.

This is Nadia’s and Saeed’s story; from their first meeting in an unnamed muslim country on the brink of civil war, to their subsequent journey to places that are hopefully safer. These two form and their ill-timed relationship are the core of this novel.

Mohsin Hamid uses his brilliant premise (what if there were suddenly doors all over the world leading to other places?) to explore the emotional impact of being a refugee instead of the logistical impact. He can ignore the hardships of travelling over land to other countries that are safer, to focus instead of the intimate experience of being foreign – of being a stranger in a strange land without having wanted to be that. I adored this. I thought this focus worked really well and made this story something really special.

He has a unique way of structuring his sentences that I found beyond brilliant. He made me reread sentences and reread passages. This is where this book truly shines: It is unbelievably beautifully written and breathtakingly structured. His command of his story-telling voice is beyond impressive. While I thought his characters were vividly painted and their relationship believable and heartbreaking, they are not what I will keep remembering. But I think that is ok – because while their story humanizes the book, it is both universal and personal in a way that kind of renders the characters irrelevant in the broader scope of the work.

First sentence: “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak with her.”

Booker Longlist Thoughts:

I think this might be the winner in the end – and I would be perfectly fine with that.

The Man Booker Prize Longlist is here.

Guys, I am so excited for the longlist to be finally here. I do love awards and especially the months leading up to them with first the longlist and then she shortlist and everybody talking about the same books.

The 2017 longlist:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury Circus)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

Unlike last year I have heard of nearly all the books, have read a couple, and have some on my TBR. I am both excited by this and a bit dissappointed because I was hoping for a bit more obscure authors and books to be on it to be discovered in the next few weeks.

Books I have read and reviewed:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)

I really enjoyed this. For a book this long it is surprisingly not indulgent but every scene feels necessary. It is a book that has stayed with me since I read it in the beginning of the year. I have already pre-ordered the paperback and have gifted the hardback to my stepmother. So yes, I adore this and am glad it is nominated. You can find my review here.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

I am a bit more ambivalent when it comes to this book. I adored parts but others felt like they would never end. The unnamed protagonist and her lack of personality drove me a bit up the walls, while Zadie Smith’s unflinchingly honest way of describing the world is beyond genius. You can find my review here.

Currently reading:

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)

I have been reading this book for what feels like months (it has actually been months) and I haven’t made nearly no headway. I don’t know what it is but there is always another book calling my name that I am more excited about. Maybe the nomination will give me the kick I need to finally finish it.

Books that have been on my list for while:

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

So, yes I am excited for this longlist and for quite a few of the books. I seems to be an awesome mix of different genres and viewpoints and I am there for this.