Summary and book reviews of A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

A Golden Age

By Tahmima Anam

A Golden Age
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2008,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2009,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

As young widow Rehana Haque awakes one March morning, she might be forgiven for feeling happy. Today she will throw a party for her son and daughter. In the garden of the house she has built, her roses are blooming, her children are almost grown, and beyond their doorstep, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air.

But none of the guests at Rehana's party can foresee what will happen in the days and months ahead. For this is 1971 in East Pakistan, a country on the brink of war. And this family's life is about to change forever.

Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, A Golden Age is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone—from student protesters to the country's leaders, from rickshaw'wallahs to the army's soldiers—must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy.

Chapter One
March 1971
Shona with her back to the sun

Every year, Rehana held a party at Road 5 to mark the day she had returned to Dhaka with the children. She saved her meat rations and made biryani. She rented chairs and called the jilapi-wallah to fry the hot, looping sweets in the garden. There was a red-and-yellow tent in case of rain, lemonade in case of heat, cucumber salad, spicy yoghurt. The guests were always the same: her neighbour Mrs Chowdhury and her daughter Silvi; her tenants, the Senguptas, and their son, Mithun; and Mrs Rahman and Mrs Akram, better known as the gin-rummy ladies.

So, on the first morning of March, as on the first morning of every March for a decade, Rehana rose before dawn and slipped into the garden. She shivered a little and rubbed her elbows as she made her way across the lawn. Winter still lingered on the leaves and in the wisps of fog that rolled over the delta and hung low over the bungalow.

She dipped her fingers into the ...

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Introduction

Rehana Haque, a young widow transplanted to the city of Dhaka in East Pakistan, is fiercely devoted to her adolescent children, Maya and Sohail. Both become fervent nationalists in the violent political turmoil which, in 1971, transforms a brutal Pakistani civil war into a fight to the death for Bangladeshi independence. Fair-minded and intensely protective of her family, but not at all political, Rehana is sucked into the conflict in spite of herself. A story of passion and revolution, of family, friendship and unexpected heroism, A Golden Age depicts the...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

A Golden Age is written with absorbing specificity: Anam is confident in the purpose and placement of layered detail. Yet, the book also shines in its exploration of universal themes and human emotion. Family, loss, loneliness, sacrifice, religion and response to war – many of the grand subjects of fiction – are found in this tale of a mother who refuses to surrender her children or, in the end, her adopted country.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

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Media Reviews
The Guardian (UK)

A Golden Age is a stunning debut. Anam writes of torture, brutality, refugees and desperation, but she also writes of love and joy, food and song.

Independent on Sunday (UK)

The book opens with a prescient quote from the Bengali poet Shamsur Rahman: "Freedom, you are an arbour in the garden, the koel's song, glistening leaves on banyan trees, my notebook of poetry, to scribble as I please." A Golden Age pays tribute, with sensitivity and restrained passion, to those who fought for one such arbour: a country to call home.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Rehana's metamorphosis encapsulates her country's tragedy and makes for an immersive, wrenching narrative.

Library Journal

Mother love is at the heart of this impressive first novel by the Bangladeshi-born, American-educated Anam. Recommended for all libraries.

Reader Reviews
Amanda N.

One family's struggle in 1970s Bangladesh
Meet Rehana Haque. A widowed mother of two in 1970s East Pakistan, Rehana would do anything for her children. Shortly after her husband's death, Rehana allowed her brother-in-law to take custody of her two children for a year, and she never lets ...   Read More

Mercedes

A Golden Age by Tahimima Anam
A Golden Age is an eye opening account of a time and place in history that I knew nothing about - Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan in the 1970's, Ms Anam has vividly captured the flavor and atmosphere of the general public at the time ...   Read More

Marganna

A Golden Age: Tahmima Anam
From the first sentence I knew this story was going to capture my attention. Since I have very little knowledge of this part of the world, culture and the struggles of the people, the story kindled a desire to learn more history of Bangladesh, the ...   Read More

Marganna

A Golden Age: Tahmima Anam
From the first sentence I knew this story was going to capture my attention. Since I have very little knowledge of this part of the world, culture and the struggles of the people, the story kindled a desire to learn more history of Bangladesh, the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

First-time novelist Tahmima Anam has written for The New York Times, Granta and The New Statesman. Links to some of her articles are provided on her website. Her father, Mahfuz Anam, is the editor of The Daily Star, Bangladesh's foremost English language daily newspaper and chairman of a Bangladeshi NGO called the Freedom Foundation. Her grandfather was journalist, politician and writer Abul Mansur Ahmed, who founded the Bangladesh Awami League and was imprisoned for four years between 1958 and 1962 when martial law was declared.

In an interview on NPR, Anam explains that her main character, Rehama, is based on her own grandmother's experience and that one of the other main characters is based on her uncle.

The Bangla2000 ...

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