Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.
With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history--personal and political--are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
The Guardian - Maya Jaggi
Any reader anticipating a predictable yarn about the radicalisation of Islamist youth may feel cheated. Far more, I suspect, will feel challenged and enlightened, possibly provoked, and undoubtedly enriched.
An engrossing story of resilience and humanity in the face of crushing tragedy...this critically acclaimed Pakistani author, who writes in English, is a powerful storyteller who deserves a wider U.S. audience.
With a rare combination of skill and sensitivity, Shamsie generates pathos for outsiders and the displaced.
Starred Review. Shamsie's unsparing look at how individuals respond when war affects their world makes for an intriguing, heartrending tale of human connection.
The Daily Telegraph - Charlotte Moore
Shamsie's attempt to explain political upheaval through interlocking lives is broad-minded, clear-sighted, even valiant. She over-reaches, but the book deserves to be read.
The Financial Times - Angel Gurria-Quintana
Some novels are so intensely charged with emotion and beauty that the reader, emerging reluctantly from the last pages, feels flayed – as if a layer of skin has been delicately stripped off. Kamila Shamsie’s fifth book, Burnt Shadows, is one such rarity. ... Yet the merit of this formidable arching tale about loss and foreignness is entirely Shamsie's. Her achievement is tremendous.
The Independent - Salil Tripathi
Shamsie's challenge is to build the architecture through strong characters without letting the burden of history crush the structure. In Hiroko, she has created just such a character. Some of the minor characters aren't always capable of bearing that burden. They remain true to the message Shamsie conveys – of the common humanity of our interwoven lives. But the pace compresses them. Shamsie has squeezed a violent century's universe into a ball, and rolled it forward with an overwhelming question: Why?
The Scotsman - Tom Adair
All fiction is travel. Kamila Shamsie transports you instantly, dramatically, often brilliantly.
The Asian Review of Books - Peter Gordon Burnt Shadows, whose core relationship is between a Japanese woman and Muslim Indian, is a still rare attempt, whether deliberate or not, at a pan-Asian novel....
The intimate tone and detailed, almost painterly descriptions of the first sections are missed in the second half, where a decade might pass between chapters.
....while novels all too often seem to be one hundred or so pages too long, the opposite is true here: one wishes this book had been rather longer.
Anita Desai Burnt Shadows is audacious in its ambition, epic in its scope. A startling expansion of the author's intentions, imagination and craftsmanship. One can only admire the huge advances she has made, and helped us to make, in understanding the new global tensions.
The most ambitious novel yet by this talented writer. In Burnt Shadows, Kamila Samsie casts her imagination remarkably far and wide, through time and across continents.
Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers
Kamila Shamsie opens a vista onto the century we have just lived through--pointing out its terror and its solace. She is so extraordinary a writer that she also offers hints about the century we are living through--the dark corners that contain challenges, as well as the paths that lead to beauty's lair.
Kamila Shamsie is a writer of immense ambition and strength. She understands a great deal about the ways in which the world's many tragedies and histories shape one another, and about how human beings can try to avoid being crushed by their fate and can discover their humanity, even in the fiercest combat zones of the age. Burnt Shadows is an absorbing novel that commands, in the reader, a powerful emotional and intellectual response.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Trezeline Burnt Shadows Kamila Shamsie covers three generations of two families in 365 pages. The language she uses is beautiful. At times I could imagine I was in the scene she was describing. Although at times the story gets a bit tedious, over all the continuing... Read More
Rated of 5
by Dorothy Burnt Shadows - a book you shouldn't miss Kamila Shamsie has written an incredible book in Burnt Shadows. Beginning just before the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and leaving you (I didn't feel that it ended because this is a book that stays with you) in the aftermath of... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kathleen Burnt Shadows Review This is an incredible book. It is beautifully written and complex. I can’t seem to stop thinking about the characters. My only complaint is that it may be too complex or ambitious for one book. When the scene shifted to New York, I felt like I... Read More
Rated of 5
by Susan A Great Book Club Read I will recommend this book to my book club which read The Kite Runner last year. This is a sad, moving, intense, sweeping novel, with themes of connection and loss, trust and treason. The author's vivid descriptions carried me to Nagasaki,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Linda Burnt Shadows Kamila Shamsie has written a book of immense scope, following the intertwined lives of two families from 1945 to post-9/11; from Nagasaki through Delhi, Pakistan, New York and Afghanistan. I found the earlier days in Nagasaki and Delhi more... Read More
Rated of 5
by Erica Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie Shamsie effectively kept a story line going through the book bringing the horror of the bombing of Nagasaki into juxtaposition with the modern day terrorist attacks. It was a unique perspective - and a unique book. The characters were... Read More
Five Notable Pakistani Authors While Indian authors have been the darlings of the literary world for the
past couple of decades, Pakistani novelists writing in English have remained in
the shadows -- but no longer. Even as their country sinks into violence, a growing
number of novelists are winning acclaim around the world. Here are five
Pakistani authors to watch out for:
Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Pakistan. Her first novel,
In the City by the Sea, was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John
Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and her second,
Salt and Saffron, won her a place
on Orange's list of '21 Writers for the 21st Century'. In 1999 Kamila received
the Prime Minister's Award for Literature in Pakistan. She has a BA in Creative
Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton New York, where she has also taught
Creative Writing, and a MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She
also writes for The Guardian, The New Statesman, Index on Censorship, and Prospect magazine, and broadcasts on...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...