Wednesday, 7 August 2013
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Sweeping in scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of disasters elided and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.
August 9, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss.
In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realization. In the numbing aftermath of a 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, Hiroko travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad’s half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee, Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history - personal, political - are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs, and 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 them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
This story deals with some very important times in 20th Century history. Beginning with the Nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and ending shortly after 9/11. It also deals with some serious issues from racism, bigotry and terrorism.
Hiroko Tanaka is a 21 year old Japanese woman in the early stages of love when her world is literally torn apart due to the Nuclear bombing. She leaves behind her homeland for a new life in India where she meets Sajjad Ali Ashraf.
The story is very cleverly told and well written. All the events mentioned in the story help to form the lives of the characters. Whilst not all their life choices are perhaps what we the reader would have made they do make good reading. It's so easy to see how we can be coerced into situations that we might regret being in. This was definitely the case for one of the characters in this story.
I really enjoyed this story and loved the writing, if you do come across this book please do pick it up. I gave it a 4.5 stars.