BookBrowse Reviews Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

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Burnt Shadows

A Novel

by Kamila Shamsie

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie X
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
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    Apr 2009, 384 pages

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An epic narrative of disasters eluded and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed. Paperback Original

The BookBrowse members who read this book for First Impressions say ....

A wonderful book ....
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 (Beatrice D). The ever deepening connections and relationships between the families, and the stories that are joined together, create an amazingly intricate story of cultural differences both understood and misunderstood, the love that transcends the differences and even celebrates them (Jan B).  Shamsie effectively keeps a storyline going through the book bringing the horror of the bombing of Nagasaki into juxtaposition with the modern day terrorist attacks. It is a unique perspective and a unique book. The storylines are fully developed so that no matter where in the world the story moved, it was logical and clear and did not seem to be mere device or manipulation (Erica M).

The author paints vivid pictures with her words and you feel as though you are right there (Janice M). Burnt Shadows looks at what brings us together and what separates us in nationality, family relationships and religion; and it explores how languages effect the way we think and understand each other. But primarily this is a great read, beautifully written with wonderfully developed complex characters and a marvelous understanding of the randomness of life and the unintended consequences of our actions (Dorothy M).

but perhaps overly complex in parts ...
I enjoyed the book for the most part but got a little bogged down with the jumping around from different time periods and places and also by the different ethnic groups in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (Christine E). 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 was reading a different book and got lost at times (Kathleen). I think the author tries so hard to get her points across and involves so many characters that I don't think they were totally developed at times (Rhonda M).  However, I kept reading and found the book to be really good. The scope was huge... but overall the theme of family unity tied together all of the various pieces and characters (Susan J.).

The final word ...
We, as Americans are sometimes so unconcerned about what happens in foreign countries. We don't see the changes in ourselves caused by war and certainly don't realize the effects on people in other countries (Trezeline B).  In light of our global world and its problems today, many hinging on war and its consequences, all should read this! I thought it was phenomenal - beautifully written, fast paced and most of the time a real page turner (Mary O).  It would be a fabulous read for book clubs with many topics for discussion including war, multicultural marriage, friendship and terrorism. (Janice M)  If you get bogged down at the beginning, keep reading, it is well worth it (Susan R). Those willing to finish the book will be well rewarded (Kathy W).

Additional Information: Bird-shaped burns?
In the opening pages of Burnt Shadows Hiroko Tanaka survives the bombing of Hiroshima but is left with bird-shaped burns on her back from where her patterned kimono variously reflected and absorbed the light from the uranium bomb -- causing the areas covered by dark fabric to be burned and the areas covered in lighter colors to repel the heat.  Could this really happen?  Absolutely it could - as can be seen on this page.  More about the back-story to Burnt Shadows at BookBrowse.

This review is from the May 6, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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