Jul. 1st, 2017

starfishstar: (books)

So first of all, we’re halfway through 2017 and I’m currently reading my 59th book of the year. I feel like I’ve been reading less this year than last, but so far apparently I’ve read more?? (I’m not done with it yet, so I can’t count it for this quarter, but book number 59 is On the Move: A Life, Oliver Sacks’ memoir, and it’s delightful!)


Second: it’s time for this quarter’s book post!


It rarely happens that I’m able to pick just one clear favorite, because I like so many books, but this time I’ve got one:





Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

            This book floored me. For the beautiful, subtle prose that fairly slips by – I’d read half the book almost before I’d realized it. For the deep, emotional place it hit me – I want to call it an allegory for the current real-world refugee crisis, because it is, but to say that also sells it so very short. If I call it that, you might think it’s overtly political (it’s not; it’s a love story, among many other things). You might thing it’s a sad, tough, weary tale of people in abject poverty, people very different from us, “other” people that those of us who are Western-first-world readers will sympathize with but maybe also struggle to relate to, but it’s not that at all – and that’s just one of many things I found so brilliant about the book. It’s a story of two young urbanites, going about life with their smartphones and their jobs and all, until their city gets overtaken by war. Like anyone’s city might get overtaken by war. It hit me so emotionally in part because – though the protagonists’ homeland is carefully never specified – I couldn’t help thinking of a Syrian friend of mine who was in Berlin as a highly qualified student…until circumstances back home changed and all of a sudden he was in Berlin as a refugee. That can happen to anyone. This is not about Muslims or third world countries or however else it’s easy to “other” refugees. It’s about people, trying to get on with the daily business of being people to each other. But I’m still selling this wrong, because it’s not a book about war. It’s a magical realism book (a bit). It’s a slightly-sci-fi book set in a near-future world, with a surprisingly optimistic view of humanity offering up both the worst and the best of itself. It’s stunningly encompassing, for a slim little book of little over 200 pages, and yet very specific, a story of two people trying to hold their love together against the odds, and it walks that balance incredibly well. Mohsin Hamid IS BRILLIANT in other words.









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September 2017


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