Deborah M. (Chambersburug, PA)
Searching for Peace in a Violent World
An ambitious novel (maybe a bit too ambitious) that attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the 20th century and our own times with a focus on violence, nationalism, mobility, and the effects of each on two extended and related families.
The story is carried from the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Nagasaki (1945) through post-9/11 paranoia, mainly by Hiroko Tanaka Ashraf. As a young woman, she was scarred by the bomb that also took the lives of her German fiance and her father. The event sets her on a journey in search of peace that takes her to India, Turkey, Pakistan, and, finally, the United States. Some of her moves are by choice, others accidental or enforced, but she remains always, somehow, connected to the family of her lost fiance. There's no happy ending here, but no great tragedy either, just a bleak prospect: "Outside, the world went on."
Beverly J. (Huntersville, NC)
Living Beyond The Shadows
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie is an ambitious epic book that grabs in you in the prologue, as an unnamed narrator is disrobed and left to wait naked with only a steel bench to sit on. His thought is How did it come to this. How stark this setting but the grace of the language warns you that this is a story that you want to see unfold
This is an elegantly written story that allows the reader to understand how history affects our relationships with each other, Sometimes history defers relationships and in others relationships survive despite the history. In each of the major parts of the book there are historical events that are well know but what is not known is how it affects individuals who only want to farm their land and raise their families. There are themes of sameness and otherness in different cultures and the issues that one can have when trying to be the same. This book shows how who is considered a terrorist is dependent whose face you are looking at based on your own individual history.
I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and world events. Readers of literary fiction will enjoy this poetic story with the universal themes of humanity and characters finding a way to bring satisfaction to their individual lives.
Shirley F. (Franksville, WI)
Unique look at tragic events
Burnt Shadows covers 60 years of tragic events that shaped the lives of the three main characters. The unlikely trio of a Japanese survivor from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, an Indian legal aide and a German woman married to a British officer stationed in Delhi meet and define the story to make it both personal and engaging. The love that they have for each other comes through the beautifully written prose, the horror of the events that shaped their lives and relationships is eloquently described and reveals the beauty of their attraction and understanding of each other. The author did a great job of tying together 3 people of widely varied backgrounds, and developing each character to maintain their individuality as well as their relationships. I recommend this book to any book group for the perspective of the three tragic events and the interrelationships of the characters involved.
Marta M. (Tustin, CA)
Ripples in the water
This was a powerful book about how the the bombing of Japan effected the generations to come. It involves only one Japanese character, Hiroko, who survives the bombing of Nagaski. She then travels to India, Pakistan, and finally New York. All of her relationships are affected by this one event. It is written without prejudice and states the historical facts without any judgement. I think that this is a book that all should read. This would be a great book for book clubs because there is a lot to be discussed.
Janice M. (Holland, MI)
Beginning with the atomic bomb being dropped in Nagasaki and the effects of war, love, family this novel stays with you long after you finish reading. At times the author paints vivid pictures with her words and you feel as though you are right there. It would be a fabulous read for book clubs with many topics for discussion (war, multicultural marriage, friendship, terrorism).
Susan R. (Julian, NC)
The beginning of this book was confusing -- I would have preferred to get to know the characters better before the horror of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. However, I kept reading and found the book to be really good. The scope of the book was huge - Japan, India, Pakistan, the US but overall the theme of family unity tied together all of the various pieces and characters of the novel. I would highly recommend this book....and if you get bogged down at the beginning - keep reading -- it is WELL worth it!
Beatrice D. (Floral Park, New York)
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
From the very first page until the days following 9/11, Kamila Shamsie guides us through the impact of sixty years of world history, using the story of two ethnically different but interlaced families. Starting with the Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki, Japan, through events in India, Afghanistan and New York, we realize how quickly lives can be blown off course by the events of history. A very readable and fascinating story