Tuesday 19 March 2013

Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid

I picked this book up based on a effusively glowing recommendation from fellow (but usually absent) book group member, Moray Barclay.  We had read the author's previous book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist to great acclaim.  I loved that book and usually, although not always, if I like one author's books with so much passion, I like other books of their.  Notable exceptions include Ian McEwan (Solar, among others, sucked), John Grisham (he's lost his edge), Dan Brown (all down hill from DaVinci), and Louis de Bernieres (should have never written another book after Captain Corelli's Mandolin).

I still am not sure how I feel about this book.  Similar to his previous book, I was never sure where the story was going or even what was happening as it was happening.  Unlike the previous book, nothing came together in the end.

Maybe I'm complaining for all the wrong reasons.  This isn't a happy book.  It tells a depressing story of unemployment, duplicity, loss of self esteem and identity, and ultimately loss of hope.  So when I finished reading it, I didn't feel any better for having read it.  When I read The Reluctant Fundmentalist, at least I felt that I walked away with an education.  This book just made me feel complete and utter despair, which might just be the point.

This book has the same laconic style of writing as his other novels.  Things happens quickly but you feel like you are watching it all in slow motion.  You can see the crash is going to happen and you are hoping for redemption at the end but life isn't like that.  And one thing Hamid does very well is not mess with the brutal reality of life in Pakistan.

I like reading books that are about subjects that I don't get much exposure to.  One of the reasons The Kite Runner is still one of my favourite books of all time is the fact that I had never heard that story before.  It was truly original.  I feel the same way about Moth Smoke.  

I gave this a 3 out of 5 stars.  This would be an excellent book group choice. In fact, please please please, would a book group pick this up and let me know what they think about it?


Anonymous said...

I also read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and loved it, The Kite Runner is one of my favourite books too, these books really opened the door to an unexplored corner of the world. Another magnificent book of similar genre is 1000 Splendid Suns. Great review, thanks.

Moray Barclay said...

Like Solar, it has, indeed, not a particularly uplifting ending; in fact the stories are similar and are as old as time (or at least Shakespeare): a flawed, vain individual more concerned about form than function, status than continual achievement, what they deserve rather than what they work for, resting on their laurels. I see Mouth Smoke as a warning for the X-Factor generation: you can screw up your life all to easily. Oh, and an interesting insight into Pakistani culture, if it is true, and it does seem authentic.

Moray Barclay said...

p.s. He's got a new book out: "How to get Stinking Rich in Asia" or similar. Fiction. Will rad it soon!